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Snake Boat Races of Kerala

 Snake Boat Race of Kerala

In the months of August and September that the moist rain drenched earth and the glorious ever flowing backwaters burst into song together, as over hundred  thousand men and women gather on the banks to witness a spectacular water regatta- the Snake Boat Races.

 

Boat Race crews begin to practice for the race months before the competition day. They live together, eat together, toil together to work themselves into a smooth, co-ordinated team. On boat race day, the Chundan Valloms as the greatest racing boats are called- are called – are slicked down with a special oil to make them glide effortlessly through water. The crews then visit a shrine carrying the stroke and largest steering oar with them.

And having offered prayers to the Almighty, they are now ready to war with their fellow men.

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Nehru Trophy Boat Race

In the year 1952, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India visited the erstwhile Travancore- Cochin. On his way to Alappuzha district from Kottayam he was 

given a roaring reception by the people of Alappuzha, escorted by the huge snake – boats. Having gone through the tremendous excitement of sailing in a snake boat popularly known as chundan he donated a rolling trophy to be awarded to the winner of the Snake Boat race to be held every year. The trophy is a imitation of a snake boat in silver, on which the following words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is inscribed above his signature “To the winner of the boat which is unique feature of community life in Travancore – Cochin”. Hereafter the boat race has grown into Alappuzha’s most important event.

This Boat Race is one of those events, which the people of Kerala look forward to with excitement. Thousands of Keralities- men, women and children- throng the watersides of Alappuzha to witness this event. Huge Pavilions are set up for the people on the bank and in the middle of the Punnamada Lake. Over 16 Chundan Valloms participate in the race along with scores of smaller crafts like the churulan, veppu, odi etc., with a price for each category. There are separate races for women too. The race begins with a colourful display of floats, performing arts and decorated boats.

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Champakkulam Boat Race: 

The traditional annual boat race of Kerala begins in July at Champakulam .This festival is known as “Moolam Vallamkali”. “Moolam signifies Malayalam Nakshathram Moolam in the month of Mithunam. This is the much oldest Boat Race in Kerala. 

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Aranmula Utthrittathi Boat Race 

The most famous Aranmula Snake Boat Race is conducted on the Uthrittathi day of the Malayalam month Chingom(August – September)in connection with the national festival of Onam. This boat race is held to commemorate the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna on that day. The deity is supposed to be in all boats that take part in the carnival and all of them are expected to arrive at their destination simultaneously. Thus no element of competition in the Aranmula Boat Race as in other regattas held in the Kerala State. The race is not conducted to win any trophy or prize. The crew regard the occasion as one for rejoicing and merry- making and cheerfully row up and down the river to the tune of songs. Even though the festival is of Hindu origin and is associated with the Parthasarathi

Temple, it is an all- community affair and participants include members of all classes and communities living in and around Aranmuala. 

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Payippad Jalotsavam 

 

It is a three day annual fiesta on the Payippad Lake which is 35kms from Alappuzha. It commemorates with the installation of the deity at the Subramanya Swamy Temple, Harippad.The story is that the people of the village decided to build a temple with Sree Ayappa as the presiding deity. After the temple was ready, they had a vision directing them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake 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.