Kottankulangara (Kerala), Mar 25: Hundreds of men dressed up as women offered prayers at a temple in a unique ritual.
Men wearing various costumes, including saree, skirt and the traditional Kerala settu mundu (another form of drape), went to the Kottankulangara temple in Chavara in a procession with lighted lamps in their hands. Fulfilling the festival tradition, they carry a lamp having five lights mounted on a long wooden rod. The lights in the lamp are used to light other lamps. Men come to the revered temple to fulfill their vows and to thank the Goddess for the favours received. "I am taking part in this festival to wash away my sins. This is the first time that I am participating in this festival," said Abhijith, a participant. "This has reinforced my belief that the Goddess is powerful and that she showers her blessings on us. Earlier also, I had come and it proved fruitful. I am sure, it will help me again," said Reghu, a businessman.
There are many stories about the origin of the festival but the most popular version says a group of boys who used to herd cows would playfully dress up as girls and offer flowers and a coconut dish called 'kottan' to a stone.
The story goes that the goddess appeared before one of the boys. Subsequently, a temple came up and the ritual of men dressing up as women to offer prayers to the goddess got under way.
This stone has now come to be regarded as the temple deity, and some say the stone has been growing in size over the years.