Kerala Snake Boat Races 2018

Just in case you were planning for a vacation to the backwaters of Kerala, you would not want to miss the prestigious snake boat races or Vallam Kali held during the festive season of Onam.

Here are the basic things you need to know about this rich traditional grandeur of snake boat race festival Kerala.

What is a Snake Boat?

Snake boat race

A snake boat or chundan vallam is the traditional boat used in boat race. They were the ancient war boats of Kerala, and constructed as per the specifications of the Sthapathya Veda. Snake boat is 100-138 meters long, each housing up to 100 members involving paddlers, singers and the village leader. The integral part of the rowing is the rhythm or vanchipattu provided by the singers. Each boat belongs to a village and is regarded as a deity by the villagers. Each village gets prepared for the competitions held annually as part of the culture.

History of boat race

The traditional snake boat was made in the 13th century by a famous carpenter for the King of Chembakassery, in order to aid in the dispute between Kayamkulam and Chembakassery. Now, they are used for the famous boat race, which is a major tourist attraction of Kerala. Boat race is a celebration dedicated to Lord Krishna and takes place in the auspicious harvest season of Onam.

Where is boat races held?

If you are interested in witnessing this electrifying event, you must head over to:

  • Punnamada Lake at Alleppey for the fabulous Nehru Trophy.
  • Champakkulam which is 25 km from Alleppey for the oldest race, the Champakkulam Moolam.
  • Payippad Lake which is 35 km from Alleppey for the Payippad Jalotsavam.
  • Pampa River at Aranmula, Chenganoor for the prestigious Aranmula Boat Race.

Apart from these spectacular events, be sure to check more local and minor races held in Alleppey each year.

When are they held?

Boat races are held from July to September every year. The dates are not specified as such, and they vary with the phase of the moon. Champakkulam boat race is held during the rainy monsoon of June and July, and the Payippad boat race varies from late August to early September. Nehru Trophy stands out from the other events due to the fact that its date is fixed. It falls on the second Saturday of August.

To make sure that you do not miss out on these experiences at any cost in this year 2018, have a look at this calendar provided by Kerala Tourism:

Kerala Boat Race 2018 Dates

1. Champakkulam Moolam: June 28th, 2018

2. Nehru Trophy Boat Race: August 11th, 2018

3. Uthradam Thirunal Pamba Boat Race: August 24th, 2018

4. Payippad Boat Race: August 27th, 2018

5. Aranmula Boat Race: August 29th, 2018

Let’s have a look at the significance each of these prestigious boat races of Kerala:

1. Champakkulam Moolam Snake Boat Race

Regarded as the oldest and most exciting races in Kerala, this particular boat race is to commemorate the auspicious day when the Sree Krishna idol was mounted in the Sree Krishna Temple of Ambalapuzha. Champakkulam Lake is adorned with thousands of beautiful boats dressed in parasols, in honour of the event and to follow the idol to the temple for the procession. Later, performing artists gather in these boats and showcase their talents in honour of Lord Krishna.

2. Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Commonly referred to as the “Olympics on water” by the villagers, the Nehru Trophy is the most popular and viewed boat race tournaments in Kerala. It is the biggest boat race event in the world today, and boats line up as pageants before the event.¬†It was named after Jawaharlal Nehru, who visited Kerala to see this great sporting spectacle. He was so mesmerized that he gave a trophy for the event, and from then onwards, it has become widely popular and commercial.
The bookings for this race is very tight and prices vary from 100 rupees for general stands, up to 3000 rupees for a Gold VIP access.

3. Uthradam Thirunal Pamba Boat Race

Held on the golden day of Uthradam, this event witnesses the active participation of more than 100 oarsmen to bag the famed KC. Mammen Mappillai Trophy. It is carried out on the serene waters of River Pamba at Neerettupuram and is cheered on by travellers from far away.

4. Payippad Boat Race (Jalotsavom)

This respected and renowned boat race is to commemorate the installation of the Subramanya idol at Haripad Subramanya Temple. This is a three-day boat race festival and takes place during the celebratory season of Onam. People from across the state gather to take part in religious activities and to see this thrilling event.

5. Aranmula Boat Race

Held during the Onam festival, Aranmula Boat Race is a two-day celebration which attracts tourists from across the state and country. It is carried out in the holy Pamba river and involves children dressed in fancy attires and boats lined with decorative silk cloth and parasols to honour Lord Krishna.

How to reach boat race location

  • If you choose to arrive at Alleppey by flight, the closest airport is in Kochi (85 km away). From the airport, you could get a taxi for approximately 2300 rupees. This would take around two hours and is tension-free but is expensive.
  • You can arrive at Alleppey railway station from Aluva railway station, which is the one closest to Cochin Airport. Another option is grabbing a train from Ernakulam South but is 45 minutes away.
  • An inexpensive method to reach Alleppey would be to arrive by bus, which would be available at the specified bus timings at the airport. If in case you miss the bus, plenty of other buses are available from Aluva Rajiv Gandhi Bus Station or Vytilla Mobility Hub.

To get to Aranmula, you must take a train to Chengannur which is 10 km away via Ernakulam.

So come down to Kerala to experience the excitement, festive mood and immense joy that snake boat races and also get a glimpse of the age-old traditions of Kerala.