Kerala is a land of backwaters and beaches. A number of water sports are associated with the major lakes in Kerala. One of the major water sports in Kerala is boat racing, which is being organized by a number of social and religious organizations. These boat races have always been a part of the tradition of Kerala. There are instances in the history of Kerala when disputes between kings and chiefs were settled by boat races. These boat races are yet another reason that the tourists are attracted towards ‘God's Own Country’. A number of teams from different districts participate in boat races, which are organized annually. These races are organized specifically during temple festivals, which give this water sports an aura of religious sanctity. A few out of these races are ancient and have different myths and legends attached to them. The Snake boat races, commonly known by the natives as Chundanvallams, are the one which are most popular. These races are organized at different places in Kerala including Punnamada in Alappuzha.
Boat Races in Kerala
Champakulam Moolam Boat Race
Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is one of the ancient and most popular boat races in Kerala. The race is organized on the river Pampa at Champakulam, Alappuzha. The snake boats are called so because of the huge sterns of these boats that looks like a hood of a cobra raised in anger. The average length of the snake boats measures to hundred feet. The legend has that the Raja of Chempakasseri, Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan, built a temple at Ambalappuzha as suggested by the royal astrologers. It was discovered that the idol which was being placed at the temple was not fit. Therefore, a new idol was brought to this place from Karikulam Temple in Kurichi. As this idol was brought to the temple on a boat, the king declared that watersport will be organized on this particular date every year, to commemorate this event.
Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali
Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali or the Aranmula Boat Race is the oldest known boat race event which takes place in Kerala. The boat race takes place during the festival of Onam, which occurs during the Malayalam month Chingam (August - September). The boat race is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The boats which are used for racing are huge. They have four helmsmen, 100 rowers and 25 singers who sing Vanchipattu songs throughout the race. The traditional snake boats which are especially used here for racing are called ‘Palliyodams’ by the natives. Each boat is decorated with a golden lace. Along with these decorations every boat has a flag and two or three ornamental umbrellas.
Payippad Jalotsavam is one of the finest snake boat races organized all over the world. The boat race is organized in a span of three days on the lake Payippad, which is located 35km from the district of Alappuzha. There is a close relationship between the Payippad Jalotsavam and the Subramanya Swamy Temple situated at Haripad. The legend has that before the actual construction of Sree Ayyappan Temple, the people of Haripad village had a vision that they should install the idol of Subrahmanya which was to be found at the bottom of the Kayamkulam River. Interestingly, the idol was supposed to be placed under a whirlpool. The people found the idol at the exact location. Hence, they brought the idol to its present location on a boat. This festival is celebrated every year in commemoration of that event.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
The annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place on the backwaters of Punnamada in Alappuzha of Kerala. The race is a rowing competition, which takes place between numerous teams who participate in this event to contend for the Nehru Trophy. The history behind the event is that, a snake boat race was conducted when Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru visited this place. He was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the rowers that he awarded the Nehru Trophy to the winners. Since then the Nehru Trophy bears a silver model of a snake boat and is awarded to the winning team of the boat race.
Explore the article and learn about the popular boat races in Kerala.