Welcome to yet another splendid,unparalleled attraction of God's Own Country. An event that is as much part of the land's ethos as the elephant pageant. A sport that signifies the excellent team spirit, integration and amity of the people of this  backwater country. Occasions of great excitement that is a reflection of a vibrant people.

Welcome to the snake boat races of Kerala.Magnificent fiestas that brings alive the tranquil backwaters. 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 largest team sport in the world,the snake boat races are preceded by colourful water parades.

Usually a snake boat is manned by four helmsmen, 25 singers 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.

The oldest of these events have curious legends and myths attached to their origin. Myths closely linked to the rustic people and their beliefs.


Champakulam Moolam Boat Race

Harippad, Alappuzha 4 July 2001, Jun 25 2002


The oldest and most popular snake boat race in Kerala, this event 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.



Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Alappuzha 11 August 2001, Aug 10 2002

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is one of those events which the people of Kerala  look forward to with excitement. Thousands of Keralites - men, women and children - throng the watersides of Alappuzha to witness the spectacle. Pavilions are set up for spectators on the banks and in the middle of the Punnamada Lake - the venue of the race.

This boat race is so named because the trophy for the winners was instituted by  former Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. 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.



Uthrattadi Vallamkali

Aranmula, Pathanamthitta district, 5 Sep 2001


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.)

Today, only 26 snake boats participate in the event which 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.

* Parthasarathy is Sree Krishna
in his role as Prince Arjuna's charioteer, in the epic Mahabharatha.



Payippad Jalotsavam

Alappuzha 2 Sep 2001, Aug 23 2002

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



Chundan Vallam
(Snake boat)

The boats of Kerala are known after their shapes, sizes or purposes. The chundan vallam is so called because of its pointed prow. The term snake boat comes from its stern which represents the raised hood of a snake and its length - usually 50 to 150 feet. The stern is majestically caparisoned and decorated with a flag and brass ornaments. Silken parasols are arrayed along the entire length of the boat.



One of the five temple towns in Kerala dedicated to Sree Krishna. Legend has  it that the image of the deity was brought to the town on five bamboo poles, the  words for which gave the town its name. Aranmula is world famous for its unique metal mirror craft using an alloy of copper, silver, bronze and lead. The kannadi (mirror) is priced between Rs. 300 & 3000.