When it comes to tradition and culture, India never ceases to surprise the world. There are some many different belief systems and so many different philosophies that lead to traditions that are rather interesting for the locals and for tourists who visit India. One such tradition is the Chamayavilakku festival.
This festival is celebrated by men who are dressed as women. It is a colorful and energetic event that the only one of its kind.
The Story Behind It
According to folklore, a few boys found a coconut whist playing in the jungle. When they tried to break it against a rock, the coconut began to ooze blood. The local priest advised the boys that it is a form of the Goddess and that they should build a temple there and worship her. Since only women were allowed to worship the goddess, the boys wore their lungis like sarees and worshiped her. Thus, this unique tradition began.
Another myth holds that a group of cowherds offered some flowers to a stone, dressed as girls. When they began to feel a divine energy pouring out of this stone, they called the stone Kottan and built a temple around it.
Where Is It Celebrated?
This festival is celebrated in the Kottanjulangara Sree Devi Temple near Kollam in Kerala. This is the temple of Goddess Bhagavathy to whom the prayers are offered. The deity in the temple is known to be “Swayambhoo”. This means that the deity is self-originated.
Details Of The Festival
The festival is celebrated on the 10th and 11th day of the Meenam Month. The festival is a symbol of men atoning for their sins before the goddess. The name Chamayavilakku comes from the word “Chamaya” which means “make-up”. It is believed that ones who celebrate this festival will have all their wishes fulfilled. Many of the worshippers return to the festival even after their wishes have been fulfilled. This is the only temple in Kerala where the Sanctum Sanctorum does not have a roof.
How Is It celebrated?
The celebrations began in the wee hours of the day. This is when the men prepare the chariots of the Goddess and adorn them with beautiful flowers. Then, as the day passes, they get dressed and prepare for the actual festivities.
The men, clad in half sarees, sarees or chudidars wear heavy make-up and jewelry. Their outfits are complete with elaborate hair-does adorned with Jasmine flowers. There are special green rooms that are allotted for the men to dress up. There is no age limit for the participants.
At dusk, the men carry beautiful wooden lamps in a procession around the temple and offer their prayers. Most of them come here to pray for a good career, a good life, well-being of their families and also a good life partner.
The makeup artist who participate in this event are specially appointed. Some of them have been part of the festival for generations. They skilfully shape the eyebrows of the men to match their features and also get rid of any moustache or beard to get them into the right attire.
Close to 95% of the transgender community in this area participate in Chamayavilakku. This two days festival allows them to dress as women freely without any hesitation. In fact, it is the largest gathering of the transgender community of Kerala and even parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Men from different parts of the country participate in the festival. The prayers offered during this festival are very powerful and has seen many men realizing their dreams and hopes after it.