Religious faith twists gender, as men cross-dress in Kerala

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 25, 2013 23:15 hrs

Kollam: Several men dressed up as women turned up at Kollam to worship Hindu goddess Bhagavathy as they carried lamps in their hands followed by a procession during an annual temple festival yesterday.

The two-day annual temple festival, "Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku" commenced on Monday at KottanKullangara Devi Temple in Kollam.

A devotee, Satish Kumar said, "All devotees have come here to participate in the festival as our wishes get fulfilled. So, lot of devotees take part in the festival and the numbers are increasing every year because of the fruitful results."

The cross-dressing is part of traditional ritual festivities, where men decked up in women's attire attempt to please the temple goddess for their wish fulfillment.

Another devotee from Mumbai, Girish Kumar said, "My aim is to succeed in life and get prosperity for the whole world and everyone else."

The men also carry large lit lamps and take strolls of the temple while offering prayers to the deity.

This year, the event witnessed more than 6,000 men performing the cross-dressing traditional ritual.

The cross-dressed devotees in colourful traditional Kerala drape and jewellery crowded the temple premises and walked with large lamps. Attractive decoration of the temple and the traditional music playing in the background created a spiritual aura.

Men of all ages and from different parts of the country forsake gender bias and became part of this unique ritual.

According to the legend, that a group of boys, all cowherds, would playfully dress up as girls and offer flowers and a coconut dish "kottan" to a stone they considered as a goddess. It is believed that one day the goddess appeared before one of the boys.

Subsequently, a temple was built and the ritual of cross-dressing became a part of traditional ritual festivities.

The festival has been attracting people from various faiths.

The most auspicious time for taking part in the ritual is between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. However, some devotees arrive much earlier in order to offer prayers in a peaceful manner. 

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