Kerala Boat Race

KERALA SNAKE BOAT RACELand and water share an extraordinary kinship in Kerala. This land which is believed to have sprung forth from the sea ,continues to bask in the tender life giving care of the waters that lap gently on its coast, cascade down its hills and valleys and rests calmly in exotic backwater and lagoons. There is a different Kerala along these backwaters, throbbing with its own unique culture. For you as a visitor to Kerala, it can be an incredibly different experience just floating on these waters in a country craft and absorbing this unusual representation of Kerala’s life.
 
You might begin at Alappuzha, which is hailed as the Venice of the East, because of its intricate maze of backwaters, canals and bridges. When the visitor leaves Alappuzha on a boat voyage through Kuttanad, he will find himself traveling along canals where the level of water is often higher than that of the green fields on either side. You could journey right up to Kochi via the backwaters. Many beautiful sights greet you along the way, such as the Chinese fishing nets, said to have been introduced into Kerala by the traders from Kublai Khan’s Court. A beautiful backwater spot accessible from Alappuzha is Kumarakom. Breathtakingly green, the village slumbers by the Vembanad Lake. On-cruise scenery flashes up vivid contrasts of lush greens and deep blues. As the boat glides along the gorgeous green of the fringed palms the ripples in the blue waters blend into little wavelets. The place is so beautiful that Henry Baker, an Englishman, built his bungalow here in the last century. Now this elegant English bungalow is a Tourist Complex. A 14-acre bird sanctuary adds to the natural beauty of Kumarakom. Birds such as Water Ducks, Cuckoos, Siberian storks spend happy summers here. By the Vembanad Lake nestles a golden yellow island, Pathiramanal which is a haven of peace for the tourists. The short boat ride from Kochi will transport you to a world of quiet and peace, of warmth and friendliness. Again from Alappuzha, you could go up to Kollam. The route winds up the Pampa river to Champakkulam, an island hamlet, then into the Karumadi Canal. The statue of Karumadikuttan is believed to be of Buddha. Some see it as a remnant of a bygone era when Buddhist monks came to Kerala with the message of love and non-violence. Then past Thrikunnapuzha, across Kayamkulam Lake and Ashtamudi Lake, finally drawing in to the ancient port of Kollam. Through out, the scenery continues to be ravishing.
 
Kerala boat raceIt is in the months of August and September that the moist, rain-drenched earth and the glorious everflowing 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 practise for the race months before the great day. They live together, eat together, toil together to work themselves into a smooth, coordinated team. On boat race day, the Chundan Valloms as the greatest racing boats 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. The air crackles with excitement as the best of the 130 feet Chundan Valloms, each manned by over a hundred rowers, fly through the waters at break neck speed, egged on by the fierce competitive spirit that marks the event and the spectators lusty roars.
 
The most famous of these are the Nehru Trophy Boat Raceon the Second Saturday of every August and the Aranmula Uthrittathi Boat Race, Champakulam Moolam Vallam Kali-which is connected with a temple festival. There are a dozen other Snake Boat races. Champakulam, Karichal, Jawahar Thayangari, Kallooparamban, Pulinkunnu, Nadubhagam, Cheruthana, Karuvatta Chundan, St. George, Valiyadivanchi, Alappad, Ayaparambu, Pattarachundan, Sri Ganesh, Vellamkulangara, Anari Puthenchundan and Paippad are the chief competitors for the trophies. Large and spectacular chundans glide towards the finishing line like meteors in the sky with water splashing violently on both sides like, creaks of lightning. An unforgettable and truly special scene. The fund of energy, spirit of competition and unerring co-ordination makes this sport one of the most dynamic. Kerala is a land of rivers and backwaters. Forty four rivers-41 west-flowing and 3 east-flowing-cut across Kerala with their innumerable tributaries and branches, but these rivers are comparatively small and being entirely monsoon fed, practically turn into rivulets in summer, especially in the upper areas.
 

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