Thousands dress up as women during Kerala's Chamayavilakku

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Chavara (Kerala), March 26 : Thousands of men, irrespective of their religious faith, dressed up as women during "Chamayavilakku" or, a costume ritual at the Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Chavara near Kollam in Kerala.

Devotees clad in various costumes, which included sari (women's drape) and the traditional Kerala Settu Mundu (white cotton wear similar to Indian men's wrap around for below waist), took part in the procession.

These devotees carry a lamp having five lights mounted on a long wooden rod. The lights in the lamp (vilakku) are then used to light other lamps in the temple.

Devotees visit the revered temple to thank the Goddess for Her blessings.

"I am taking part in this festival for the good of the people in my house and also to wash away my sins. This is the first time that I am participating in this festival," said Abhijith, a youngster.

Another devotee said that he believed in the power of the Goddess and was grateful to Her for blessing him in his life.

"I am participating in this festival for the second time and 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 Raghu, a businessman.

Many legends are related to the tradition here.

One of them is attributed to the Goddess being pleased with a group of boys who while herding cows used to enact as shy girls and offered flowers and coconut dishes to the deity.

One of the boys had a divine revelation from the Goddess and subsequently constructed a temple without an outer wall and started the ritual of men dressing up like women, once in a year, a tradition that is practiced even today as Chamayavilakku.

This festival at Kottankulangara temple lasts for 10 days whereas Chamayavilakku is observed only on the final two days when men dressing up as women offer prayers. This occasion reflects communal amity.

This year's Chamayavilakku concluded on Tuesday (March 25). By K.S.Ashik

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