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Boat Races in Kerala

The boat races are the another main attraction in Kerala. The boat races signifies the excellent team spirit, integration and unity of the people of this backwater country. These boat races are the occasions of great excitement that is a reflection of a vibrant people. The snake boat races of Kerala are the magnificent fiestas that brings alive the tranquil backwaters. The snake boat races are held in connection with Onam, the harvest festival in August - September. Scores of long snake boats and other smaller crafts participate in these events. The snake boat races are the largest team sport in the world, preceded by colourful water parades. Usually a snake boat is manned by 4 helmsmen, 25 singers

Kerala Boat Races

and 100-125 oarsmen who row in unison to the fast  rhythm of the Vanchipattu (song of the boatman). Thousands of people crowd the water's edge to cheer the huge black crafts as they slice through the waters to a spectacular finish. These boat races have curious legends and myths attached to their origin. The famous boat races are Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallom Kali and Payippad Jalotsavam. The other boat races held during Onam are ATDC Boat Race, Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race, Neerettupuram Boat Race, Kumarakom Boat Race, Karuvatta Boat Race, Kavanattinkara Boat Race, Arpookara Vanitha Jalamela, Mahatma Boat Race, Kottapuram Boat Race and Kumaranasan Smaraka Jalotsavam.


Champakulam Moolam Boat Race
Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is the oldest and the most popular snake boat race held in Kerala. This boat race is held in Harippad in Alappuzha in Kerala in the month of July. This boat race is held with great fun, frolic and enthusiasm in Alappuzha. This race is closely associated with the Shri Krishna temple at the Ambalappuzha in Kerala. This race is held on the Champakulam lake on the Moolam day of the Malayalam month, the day when the deity is to be installed at the temple. According to the legends, the Maharaja Devanarayana of Chempakasseri, as instructed by the royal priest, built a temple at Ambalappuzha. But just before the installation of the deity, he was informed that the idol was not auspicious. The king was disturbed, but his minister suggested an inspired solution. To bring down the beautiful idol of Sri Krishna, presented to Arjuna by the Lord himself from the Karikulam temple in Kurichi. The minister with a few others went to Kurichi, met the authorities there and returned with the idol. On the way back they stopped at Champakulam to spent the night and perform a puja. The next morning boats from the entire region assembled to escort the idol in a colourful, ceremonial procession through the lake to the temple. Years later, this pageant is still re-enacted with the same enthusiasm. An exotic procession of water floats, boats decorated with colourful parasols and performing arts greets the spectator before the race. The race is held in various stages for various categories of boats.


Nehru Trophy Boat Race

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is one of the most spectacular and exciting boat race which is held in Kerala. It is one of the boat race in which the people of Kerala look forward to with excitement. Thousands of people of Kerala and from all over the world gather at the Punnameda lake at Alappuzha to view the boat race. The pavilions are set up for the spectators on the banks and in the middle of the Punnamada Lake, the venue of the race. This boat race is known as the Nehru Trophy Boat race as the trophy for the winners was instituted by the Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India. Over 16 boats in the shape of a snake participate in this race along with the  various small crafts like the Churulan,

Snake Boat Kerala

Veppu and Odi, with a prize for each category. There are separate races for the women too. Before the starting of the race there is a colourful procession of floats, performing arts and decorated boats. This race is continued till late evening.

Uthrattadi Vallom Kali Boat Race
Uthrattadi Vallom Kali Boat Race is also known as Aranmula Boat race. This boat race is held annually during the Onam festival in month of Chingam (August-September) in Aranmula and Alappuzha on the day of Uthrittathi asterism for two days. This boat race is celebrated as a water fiesta rather than as a competition. This festival is celebrated as on this day the Lord Krishna crossed the river. In this race, the deity is held in all the boats that take part in the carnival and all of them are expected to arrive at their destination simultaneously. According to the legends, a devout Brahmin made a votive offering of feeding one pilgrim a day. One day Shri Krishna himself appeared to him and the overjoyed Brahmin vowed to offer 51 measures of rice and all the provision for the Thiruvona Sadya (the sumptuous Onam feast) at the Aranmula Parthasarthy Temple. Once the Thiruvonachilava Thoni (the boat carrying the offerings) was intercepted by the rivals from another village, but the Brahmin's own villagers came to the rescue on snake boats. From then on the offering was carried by the fleet of Palliyodam, about 48 of them representing the nearby backwater villages.

A Palliyodam is a large, luxurious snake boat used by the gods and royalty. Today, only 26 snake boats participate in the event which is marked by the colourful water carnival, an imposing effigy of Sri Krishna is taken out in procession on the lake with children dressed as nymphs and princesses. On the second day, snake boats decorated with silken parasols, carrying helmsmen, oarsmen and singers assemble near the temple early in the morning and then move away in pairs, creating a magnificent pageant. The boat race is held in the afternoon.

Boat Races in Kerala

Payippad Jalotsavam

The Payippad Jalotsavam is celebrated on the Payippad Lake, about 35 kms. from Alappuzha in Kerala. This boat race is held annually in the month of August and September. This boat race is celebrated for three days and commemorates the installation of the deity at the Subramanya Swami Temple, Haripad. The story is that the people of the village decided to build a temple with Sri Ayyappa as the presiding deity. After the temple was ready, they had a vision directing them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they would find the idol of Sri Subramanya which was to be installed at the temple. Accordingly, the elders of the village with divers and swimmers rowed to the spot and found the idol which was escorted back ceremoniously by devotees from the entire region in colourfully decorated boats. This happened on the Thiruvonam day of the Malayalam month of Chingam. To this day, a water fiesta is conducted along the route traced by the auspicious procession. Besides the boat race, spectacular water pageants are organized with water floats, decorated boats, performing arts, children in fancy attires, etc. The vanchipattu is a characteristic feature of these processions. The vanchipattu is the song of the boatman who sing while keeping time with the movement of the oars and to keep the spirit. Every snake boat race has about 25 singers keeping time with traditional percussion instruments. The event draws hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the world.


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