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Snake Boat Races - Kerala

The famous Snake boat race of Kerala which originated long ago as a Naval Warfare in South India has now evolved into an international cultural sporting event. Hundred odd pairs or ebony shoulders rip the placid surface of backwaters while they propel their snake boats with pure muscle power. War cries of the navigators and oarsmen invigorated by traditional music of more than a dozen musicians gives an adrenaline rush even to spectators on the banks. Twenty or more such, 50 mt long, chandanvallams or snake boats, called so because of their resemblance to the raised hood of a hissing cobra, fight to reach the finish line. Excitement thus generated shatters the trademark tranquility of the backwaters as thousands of spectators roar with the oarsmen while cheering for their favorite boats.


Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a popular Vallam Kali held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha, Kerala, India. Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means boat play/game, but can be translated to boat race in English. The most popular event of the race is the competition of Chundan Vallams (Snake Boats). Hence the race is also known as Snake Boat Race in English. Other types boats which participate in various events of the race are Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam (Vaipu Vallam), Vadakkanody Vallam and Kochu Vallam. This boat race is so named because the former Indian Prime Minister, JawaharlalNehru instituted the trophy for the winners. Over 16 chundan vallams participate in the race along with scores of smaller crafts like the churulan, veppu, odi etc., with a prize for each category. There are separate races for women too. The race begins with a colourful pageant of floats, performing arts and decorated boats. And goes on late into the evening.


Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali

The two day Aranmula Boat Race is more a water fiesta than a competition, conducted during Onam. The event is a re-enacting of the legend involving a devout Brahmin who made a votive offering of feeding one pilgrim a day. One day Sree 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 Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the thiruvonachilavu thoni (the boat carrying the offerings) was intercepted by 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 a fleet of palliyodam - about 48 of them representing the nearby backwater villages. (A palliyodam is a large, luxurious snake boat used by gods and royalty.). The event is marked by a colourful water carnival - an imposing effigy of Sree 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 proper is held in the afternoon.


Champakulam Moolam Boat Race

The oldest and most popular snake boat race in Kerala, and is closely connected to the Sree Krishna Temple at Ambalappuzha. The race is held on the Champakulam Lake on the moolam day of the Malayalam month Midhunam, the day of the installation of the deity at the Temple.Legends say that 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 Sree 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 pooja. 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 the 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 proper is held in various stages for various categories of boats..


Payippad Jalotsavam

The three day annual fiesta on the Payippad Lake, 35 km from Alappuzha, commemorates the installation of the deity at the Subramanya Swamy Temple, Haripad. The story is that the people of the village decided to build a temple with Sree 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 Sree 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


Other Snake Boat Races of kerala

ATDC Boat Race, Alappuzha, Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race, Pulinkunnu, Neerettupuram Boat Race, Kumarakom Boat Race, Karuvatta Boat Race, Kavanattinkara Boat Race, Kumarakom Arpookara Vanitha Jalamela, Kottayam Mahatma Boat Race, Mannar, Thazhathangadi Boat Race,Kottayam, Kottapuram Boat Race, Kodungallur and Kumaranasan Smaraka Jalotsavam, Pallana, The Indira Gandhi Boat Race is held on the Ernakulam Lake during the Cochin Carnival in the last week of December.

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