Kerala is a land of tourism and after the monsoon the entire state gets ready to welcome the tourists. Some of the many attractions of Kerala include boat races. Boat races are common in and around Allepey region. The boats are called snake boats because of their shape. They are called locally as ‘Palliyodams’. Boat race is also called Vallam Kali in malayalam which means Water Play.
The snake boats are named after snakes because of their shape. They are about 100 feet long and can accommodate around 100 rowsmen. Each village has a snake boat and the villagers carry these boats to the lakes for the competitions.
Other boats used in the race include iruttu kuthi, churulan vallam, cheru vallam etc.
Music during the boat race resembles the tides of the river and a music band accompanies the boats. It is a great experience to watch the boatmen row the boats when the music is sung.
The kings of the region used to carry out fights using the boats in the canals around 400 years ago. Once one of the kings suffered heavy loss during the fight and he asked his architects to build boats that would be steady and he would win the war.
Boat architects of the land made a snake boat after a series of unsuccessful attempts. With the snake boat the king could win the wards. People of other regions tried to get to know the secrets of building the snake boat, but they could not succeed. Boats built then are now used in the snake boat races.
Types of Boat Races
There are popular boat races which happen after the monsoon that is in August or September when Kerala finishes the celebration of Onam. Some of them are described below:
Nehru Boat Race
This boat race takes place in Punnamada backwaters of Alappuzha district. It is named after Jawaharlal Nehru who was the chief guest for the first boat race held in 1952. One of the most popular of the boat races, it is held on the second Saturday of August.
Payyipad Boat Race
Held in honour of Lord Subramanya of Harippad in the taluk of Karthikapally in Alappuzha district. This boat race commemorates with the installation of the Subramanya idol at Harippad temple. It is the second most popular boat race, various chundans take to the waters and compete. The place is Payyippad river.
Aranmula Boat Race
The River Pamba is the sacred river where this boat race is held. It is held in Arunmula village of Kozhencherry taluk of Pathanamthitta district. It is held on Uthiratathi Nakshatra of the month of Chingam. Palliyodams take to the waters in salute to Lord Krishna of Aranmula.
Champakulam Boat Race
This boat race is held in Champakulam village on the Champakulam river. It is held on the star Moolam in the Malayalam month of Mithunam which falls between June and July.
Besides the snake boats, boats of various categories like chundan (snake boat), veppu, iruttu kuthi, churulan also participate in the event. The race cuts across religions and caste bringing all the people under one roof.
Boat races are unique to Kerala, they have a flavour that is purely Kerala. Many foreigners and tourists visit Kerala during the boat to get an experience of the boat race.