Every year, the Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Kollam's Chavara village, hosts the Chamayavilakku Festival, which is one of the most fascinating temple festivals of India, celebrated during the month of March. As part of the ritual, men dress up as women and carry the divine Chamayavilakku or traditional lamp and walk around the temple to express their devotion for the presiding deity. It's a truly fascinating experience to watch thousands of men adorned in silk sarees, jasmine garlands and shimmering jewellery as they walk around elegantly carrying the beautifully-lit lamps. The ritual begins in the evening and continues till dawn and is held on the last two days of the 19-day long festival. Devotees queue up in long lines from the temple gate to Kunjalummoodu holding the lamp to welcome the deity at midnight. The temple is elaborately decorated with lights, lamps and devotional music adds to the divine vibe of the place. During the festivities, the temple complex is lined with little stalls that offer wigs and other make-up accessories on hire for the participants. The famous temple festival draws devotees not only from different parts of Kerala but from all corners of the world. According to legend, a group of boys once tried to break a coconut by hitting it on a slab of stone and to everyone's surprise, the stone slab started bleeding instantly. Astrologers suggested that the stone must have contained the divine energy of Vanadurga and instructed the locals to build a temple around the stone. Temple historians believe that the first prayer service of the temple was conducted by the boys dressed as women and that is how the unusual custom began.

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