Kottankulangara Sridevi Temple at Chavara in Kerala – Men Cross Dress for Goddess in Chamayavilakku Festival

According to Hindu tradition all animate and inanimate rise and fall in the Supreme Truth. Chamayavilakku Festival 2014 date is March 24 and 25. This concept has given rise to numerous unique traditions in Hinduism like the Ardhanareeshwara and unique temple festivals related to the concept half-man and half-woman. One such festival is the Chamayavilakku festival held at the Kottankulangara Sridevi Temple at Chavara in Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Vana Durga – an incarnation of Goddess Shakti.

Please note that the festival is today being associated with homosexuals, crossdressers and transgender. But this is not correct. The ritual is a unique offering done by straight men to the Goddess. Homosexuals, crossdressers and transgender actively participate in the ritual.

The ritual is held during the last two days of the 11-day temple festival. On the day, regular men from all walks of life dress up as women for the chamaya Vilakku (chamaya is make-up, vilakku is lamp). The offering is made for the fulfillment of desires or as a thanksgiving for a wish fulfilled.

Beautifully dressed in female clothes and with flowers on hair, lamps in hand, men wait patiently till the wee hours of dawn for the goddess to bless them.

The temple festival also attracts large number of homosexuals and transgender.

There are two legends that are associated with the Chamayavilakku Festival and Kottankulangara Sridevi Temple.


According to legend, little boys grazing cattle had first stumbled upon the deity worshipped in temple. While trying to dehusk a coconut, they accidentally hit a stone which began to bleed. The frightened children told their parents about this. The adults then consulted astrologers. Finally, the phenomenon was attributed to the presence of Vana Durga. A temple was built. The little boys dressed as girls and held lamps to welcome the goddess.

Another legend has it that a group of cowherds used to dress up as girls and playfully offer remains of the coconut after it is grated and the milk extracted to a murti or idol. Pleased by their devotion, the goddess, in the garb of an ordinary woman, appeared before them and blessed them.
(the legends are from an article published on the temple in Times of India a couple of years ago)