Unique Story! Why Kerala Men Dress Like Women, The Fascinating Tradition of The Festival

Unique Story of Kerala: In the lush green state of Kerala, India, a captivating and unconventional tradition unfolds during the Chamayavilaku Festival. This annual Hindu celebration takes place at the Kottankulangara Sree Devi Temple in Kollam, Kerala. What makes this festival truly remarkable? Men, yes, you read that correctly—men dress up as women! Let’s delve into the unique story of the origins, rituals, and significance of this extraordinary event.

The Festival and Its Origins

The Chamayavilaku Festival occurs on the 10th and 11th day of the Malayalam month of Meenam. The name itself is a fusion of two words: “Chamayam” (make-up) and “Vilakku” (lamp). But why do men don sarees, adorn themselves with jewelry, and apply elaborate makeup during this festival?

According to local legend, a group of cow-herders stumbled upon a coconut and a stone near Bhoothakulam, a small deep pond in the northwest corner. When they struck the coconut with the stone, blood flowed from the stone. The elders interpreted this as a divine sign—the Goddess resided there. They hastily constructed a temporary temple, and the cow-herders, in a tradition dating back centuries, dressed in female attire (balikas) to worship the Goddess. Thus, the tradition of men dressing as women during Chamayavilaku was born.

Reasons behind this fascinating practice

At the heart of this tradition lies unwavering faith. Men believe that by dressing as women, they can connect more deeply with the Goddess Durga (also known as Vanadurga), the presiding deity of the Kottankulangara Sree Devi Temple. The act of donning female attire symbolizes humility, surrender, and devotion. It allows them to step into the feminine energy associated with the Goddess.

During the festival, thousands of men meticulously transform themselves. They shave off their mustaches, drape themselves in vibrant sarees, and meticulously apply makeup. Their purpose? To offer prayers to the presiding deity, Goddess Durga (also known as Vanadurga). These men believe that dressing as women will bring them blessings—whether in the form of jobs, wealth, or forgiveness for their sins.

Men participate in this unique ritual with unwavering devotion. They fast, lead disciplined lives, and immerse themselves in the festival’s spirit. The Chamayavilaku is not merely a visual spectacle; it’s a heartfelt expression of faith and hope. Participants seek the fulfillment of wishes and the absolution of their transgressions.

By dressing as women, they cleanse themselves both physically and spiritually. The elaborate makeup, sarees, and jewelry serve as a form of penance, allowing them to seek redemption and absolution. Kerala’s culture has always embraced diversity and inclusivity. The festival challenges traditional gender norms and stereotypes. By allowing men to dress as women, Chamayavilaku celebrates gender fluidity and reinforces the idea that spirituality transcends societal expectations.

The Makeup Rooms and Costumes

The temple premises buzz with activity during Chamayavilaku. Multiple makeup rooms cater to the men’s transformation. If needed, the temple even provides costumes. As the sun sets, the temple courtyard comes alive with shimmering sarees, delicate jewelry, and the soft glow of lamps.

Positive Takeaway

This Unique Story of Kerala’s Chamayavilaku festival transcends gender norms and societal expectations. It celebrates diversity, spirituality, and the enduring connection between humans and the divine. As the men parade through the temple grounds, they carry chamayavilakku—a lamp with five wicks—as a symbol of their sacred offering.

So, the next time you witness men draped in elegant sarees, remember that they are not merely playing dress-up. They are partaking in a centuries-old tradition—a beautiful blend of devotion, folklore, and the extraordinary spirit of Kerala.

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Rishika Choudhury

Content Writer

CATEGORIES Business Agriculture Technology Environment Health Education

Rishita Diwan – Chief editor

Rishika Choudhury – Editor


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