Ramakanta Biswas

India is a land of religious diversity. People here follow many religions and each one has its own unique set of rituals and customs. One such strange festival is ‘Chamayavilakku’ festival which is celebrated at Devi Temple in Kollam district in Kerala. 

In this festival, men dress up as women by wearing saree and jewellery with elaborate makeup and take part in the unique ritual.  

Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) officer Ananth Rupanagudi shared a post on Twitter to describe the unique festival. He posted the photo of a man dressed as a woman during this year's Chamayavilakku festival which was celebrated on March 23 and 24. 

“The Devi Temple in Kottamkulakara in Kollam district in Kerala has a tradition called the Chamayavilakku festival. This festival is celebrated by men who are dressed as women. The above picture is that of the man who won the first prize for the make up In the contest,” Rupanagudi wrote.

The post received 1.2M views, 8,137 likes and 1,238 retweets. It also left many internet users curious as well as surprised. 

A Twitter user wrote, “I’d have never guessed. I wonder how he looks otherwise.” 

“It’s unbelievable at first, but as I read more it seems true and old tradition followed. Observed every year around 25th March at a temple near Kollam, Kerela. There is so much to know and be amazed,” commented another.

Responding to the queries of users, Ananth Rupanagudi wrote, "For those who don't believe that this tradition exists or that men don't dress up as women. It's an inherent part of the festival!."

According to the Kerala Tourism website, the festival is called Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku – a carnival of lights – and it is celebrated on the 10th and 11th of the Malayalam month of Meenam, the second half of March. 

"Akin to every temple festival, Chamayavilakku of Sree Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Kollam also has processions with beautiful ladies holding lamps in their hands. But here if you take a closer look, you can see that it is not ladies who bear the lamps but men!," the tourism website wrote in a newsletter.

"The festival has also turned out to be the largest congregation of the transgender community in Kerala as it offers them a space to celebrate their identity," the newsletter added.