Vallam Kali or Boat Races in Alappuzha
It is during the months of August and September that the moist, rain-drenched earth and the glorious ever flowing backwaters burst into a song together, as over a hundred thousand men and women gather on the banks to witness a spectacular water regatta - the SNAKE BOAT RACES. It is believed that these boats were designed for ancient Naval battles fought in these backwaters. Local chieftains of the then kingdoms of Vadakkumkoor (Northern Kingdom), Thekkumkoor (Southern Kingdom) and Chempakassery all maintained their chundan boats.
Boat race crew begin to practice for the race months before the great day. They live together, eat together, toil together to work themselves into a smooth, coordinated team.
A splendid procession unfolds with all types of 'Kali-Vallangal' or RACING BOATS, led by the largest and the most majestic of them, the 'Chundan' (Snake Boat). Its rowers sing songs known as ' vanchi pattu ' to the rhythm of the oars - a feast for the eyes and the ears. The largest of the 'Chundan' boats, the length of which varies between a hundred and a hundred and thirty feet can seat a hundred and twenty rowers, sixty on each side. Like the neck of an angry snake it curves to a height of fifteen to twenty feet.
The prow is pointed and stands four feet above the water with its glistening brass embellishments. The main steer man of the boat stands on the amaram (The Backside of the boat where the boat is steered) with specially made long oars. The efficiency with which they handle the oar is what establishes the speed of the boat and its balance. They claim that a single strong plunge of the oar into the water can take the boat three leaps forward to a distance of thirty feet.
Major Boat Races
There are many interesting boat rades in Kerala, each races is more enchanting than the other.
Tourism Boat Race: Connected with Great Elephant March- 11th January.Connected with Great Elephant March- 11th January.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most famous of the boat races of Kerala. This annual festival is held on the Punnamada Backwaters of Alappuzha district on the 2nd Saturday of August month. The Nehru Trophy boat race is held to commemorate the visit of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1952. This spectacular race features magnificent snake boats or 'Chundans'. The lively and rhythmic boat songs or Vanchipattu draw the spectators to a state of frenzy.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is one of those events, which the people of Kerala look forward to with excitement. The most prestigious and interesting event among the races is the competition of the "Chundan Vallam" or the snake boats. These majestic boats measuring a length of 30 to 60 metres (over 100 ft) with a raised prow, are quite impressive and can accommodate around 100 rowers, 4 helmsmen and 25 cheer leaders.
Rajiv Gandhi Trophy Boat Race is a striking water sport celebrated on the rolling backwaters of Alappuzha District, Kerala. It is held at Pulinkunnu, 10 km from Alappuzha.
Every year, the boat race is conducted on two weeks after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. The colourful water procession, water floats and boat races are the main attractions.
The winners are awarded Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Trophy, which was instituted in memory of Rajiv Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India. The main highlights of this race are colourful water procession, water floats, and boat races.
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.
The race popularly known as the 'Moolam Vallamkali ' is held in the waters of the Champakkulam River at Champakulam, about 26 km from Alappuzha. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism (star) of the Malayalam month of Mithunam (June- July). The boat race is held in remembrance of the installation of the famous idol of Lord Krishna in the Amabalapuzha Sree Krishnaswamy Temple brought from the Karinkulam temple in Kurichi near Kottayam.
Neerattupuram Boat Race is held on month of September every year during Onam festival. More than 1000 oarsmen in boats of different sizes and shapes will participate in this event. Even though Snake Boats participate in this race, the importance is given here is for iruttukuthi, in which about 50 oarsmen row. The successful iruttukuthi will win The Ever Rolling Trophy.
A group of lovers and admirers of water sports were credited with the idea of brining various boat clubs of Kutanadu for the little of “Pamba Boat Race” and the race was held at the Pampa water stadium at Neerattupuram and it was rapidly advanced to a unique sporting event in the filed of Boat Race in Kerala. The race has now earned international reputation and recognition by virtue of its high standard, excellence and expertise and is a renowned name in the world of water sports.
Since 1957 the race is held on every Thiruvonam day, the most auspicious celebrant day of Kerala. The glistering golden Mammen Mappila Trophy presented to the winner of Snake Boat every year.
Karuvatta Boat Race is one of the water events that take place during Onam days at Karuvatta River. The boat race is preceded by colorful water parades and is the most enchanting facet of the festival of Onam. The event is promoted as a major tourist attraction of the state of Kerala and draws a large number of domestic and international tourists.
The race has been going on for good number of years and its popularity is soaring with each passing year. The boats are no ordinary boats and there are fixed measurements to it. It is about 100 feet long and has a seating capacity of 150 men. The boats are usually made of anjili (artocarpus hirsuta), though sometimes teak and kadamb (Naucleacadamba) wood is also used.
The curled ends of the boats are shaped like cobra hoods and it is from this shape that boat has derived its name. Each boat is meticulously crafted by skilled craftsmen and a lot of patience and hard work goes into making and decorating it. The boat is treated as a deity and a holds a lot of emotional value for the village folk. Only men are allowed to touch the boat that too with bare feet. Each boat belongs to individual villages located near the river Pamba.
Mannar Boat Race 'Kettukazhcha' is very famous and it is a procession of tall decorated structures in chariots in which effigies of horses, bullocks are displayed. It is an annual event in the Sri Parabrahma temple, which aims at highlighting the martial skills of participants. Many people come to the sacred temple of Parabrahma.
In Kerala, Mannar boat race is held on the place where former rulers of Kerala, namely, Kayamkulam and Ambalappuzha are said to have fought a historic battle. The festival is held to honor that historical event.