• Anu Kuriakose Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology
Keywords: Chamaya-vilakku, Commercialization, Cross-dressed male, Gender performance, Kottankulangara, Public sphere, Religious space, Transgenders


This paper critically analyses the images of the self and the “othering” of the transgender identity in the public sphere of Kerala in the context of gender visibility. The performance of queer sexuality and gender identity is contested in Kerala where transgenders are forced to displace themselves from their homeland in search of identity and solace. However the religious space in Kottankulangara temple in Kerala offers the transient realm of transvestism. The cross-dressed males here commemorate the annual chamaya-vilakku festival, which is considered as an offering to the Goddess Bhagavati. Those gender non-conforming people who live as men due to social pressures get the chance to flaunt their gender identities at this occasion. In this sense, transgenders, “the other” who take their legitimization from various religious myths, achieve a temporary space of acceptance in the public sphere. It is noted that besides the normalization of the subversive gender performances, the religious ritualistic site and the worship system is transformed to a commercial space as the temple premises are filled with makeup stalls, ironically endorsing the gender idealization in terms of the patriarchal binary norms.

Author Biography

Anu Kuriakose, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology

Anu Kuriakose is a PhD scholar in English at the Department of Humanities, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, currently working on her thesis, “Troubling Gender, Contesting Identity: Reading the Regional Imaginations on Transgenders through Cinematic Practices in Kerala.” Her areas of research interests include Cultural Studies, Performance Studies and Gender Studies.


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How to Cite
Kuriakose, A. (2018). SUBVERSIVE GENDER PERFORMANCE IN KOTTANKULANGARA TEMPLE FESTIVAL. Journal of Dharma, 43(2), 169-188. Retrieved from