The monsoon has arrived and is the time to plan for a vacation in Kerala to catch the splendor of the famous Kerala Boat Races. The God’s own country comes alive in monsoons as thousands of people congregate in different areas of the state to experience these boat races. Boat races are immensely popular in Kerala and have been a part of the tradition and culture since ancient times. These are the popular attractions of Kerala Tourism apart from the houseboats, waterfalls, beaches and the wildlife.
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Snake Boat Races, locally known as Vallam Kali, in Kerala are perhaps the most vigorous, prestigious and community-oriented water sports in India. There are many kinds of boat races held every year in Kerala backwaters and each one has its own story of origin with a lot of legendary tales and mythology attached. There are the instances in Kerala history when disputes between kings and chiefs were settled by boat races. A number of teams from different regions participate in these boat races, which are organized during various festivals & occasions.
Trawell.in listed 7 popular Boat Races in Kerala here.
Champakulam Moolam Boat Race
Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is the oldest and most popular boat races in Kerala. The boat race is held on Pampa River at Champakulam near Alappuzha on Moolam day in the Malayalam month of Midhunam (June / July) every year. The Champakulam Boat Race is the first race during the monsoon season and has a tradition of centuries. This was traditionally held to mark the day when the idol of Lord Krishna was brought by boat and installed at Sri Krishna Temple, Ambalapuzha.
The festivities include spectacular water floats, decorated boats, vanchipattu – the song of the oarsmen and the popular Chundan Vallam race. Before the boat race begins, the lake is adorned by colourful boats that are dressed in pretty parasols containing groups of performing artists display their skills in honour of Lord Krishna. The race is held in various stages for various categories of boats. The banks of the Pampa River get flooded by people from far and near, cheering the oarsmen. These snake boats driven by hundreds of oarsmen tearing through the serene waters and the festive environment makes the boat race a grand visual spectacle.
Venue & Date: 28th July 2018 at Champakulam
Distance from Kochi: 73 km
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Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Undoubtedly, the most famous snake boat race in the world, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on the second Saturday of August every year on the placid waters of Punnamda Lake in Alappuzha. Alleppey is the one among the best Kerala Tourist Places to experience the backwater tourism. Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most competitive and popular boat races in Kerala and also one of the top things to do in Kerala during monsoons. This boat race observes the visit of late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952, the then Prime Minister of India.
This race is full of thrills and excitement. Several snake boats from different villages of Kuttanad region are participated in the competition. Each boat is accompanied by about 150 oarsmen, showcasing their skills on 1.5 km long race. Around 200,000 visitors including tourists from abroad participate in these breathtaking celebrations and is a fully commercial affair. Spectators need to buy tickets to view the race from close points on rickety bamboo decks. Alleppey is also famous for its Kerala Houseboats.
Venue & Date: 11th August 2018 at the Punnamda Lake, Alleppey
Distance from Kochi: 58 km
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Payippad Boat Race / Jalotsavom
Payippad Boat Race or Jalotsavom is another spectacular boat race of Kerala held every year on the Payippad River at Payippad village in Alappuzha. This is a 3-day long annual event held during Onam festival, usually in the month of August or September. This boat race is celebrated every year in commemoration of the installation of the idol of Lord Subramanian at Haripad Subramanya Temple.
Payippad Boat Race is unique as it is the only boat race held for three days continuously and also it has the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. Apart from the breathtaking snake boat races, the event is made more impressive by colourful water pageants. The very arduous snake boat race commences on the final day of the event. Devotees throng to this place from all parts of Kerala to participate in the festivities and watch the exciting race.
Venue & Date: 27th August 2018 at Payippad
Distance from Kochi: 94 km
Sree Narayana Jayanthi Vallam Kali / Kumarakom Boat Race
Also known as Kumarakom Boat Race, Sree Narayana Jayanthi Vallam Kali is one of the popular boat races of Kerala held on the placid waters of Vembanad Lake in September every year during Onam festival. The boat race is conducted to celebrate the arrival of Sri Narayana Guru, who visited Kumarakom in 1903 CE to consecrate the idol of Sri Subrahmanya Swami at the Kumara Mangalam Temple.
Prior to the commencement of boat race, there is a grand procession of boats carrying a portrait of Sri Narayana Guru from Kumara Mangalam Temple to Kottathodu, the venue of the boat race. Hundreds of oarsmen in many kinds of boats like the Chundan, the Iruttukuthi, the Churulan and the Veppu take part in this race. Though all types of snake boats participate in this race, the importance is given to Iruttukuthi and the successful Iruttukuthi wins the Sri Narayana Ever Rolling Trophy. Besides this, Kumarakom is also the most famous Kerala Backwaters destination for traditional houseboat rides and it is among the most popular places to visit in Kerala.
Venue & Date: Date to be announced
Distance from Kochi: 54 km
Aranmula Boat Race
Aranmula Snake Boat Race, fondly called as Aranmula Vallam Kali, is a 2 day affair held in the month of August-September at Aranmula during the Kerala’s famous Onam festival. Also known as Uthrittathi Boat Race, this is one of the popular boat races in Kerala. Noted for its grandeur and long tradition, the Aranmula Boat Race is associated with the annual festival of Sri Parthasarathy Temple and is usually held on the last two days of the festival.
Dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna, the Aranmula Vallam Kali is considered as a ritual than a race and it attracts tourists from all over the world. More than 25 massive traditional Palliyodams, that house 100 rowers, 25 singers and 15 helmsmen, participate in this event. Each snake boat is decorated with a golden lace, colourful umbrellas, and flags. Groups of men and singers who sing stridently in a rhythmic manner gather along the banks of Pampa River at Aranmula. Aranmula is one of the famous pilgrimage places to visit in Kerala.
Venue & Date: 29th August 2018 at Aranmula
Distance from Kochi: 111 km
Indira Gandhi Boat Race
Indira Gandhi Boat Race is an annual boat race held along the backwaters of Kochi during the last week of December every year by the Department of Kerala Tourism. Named after Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi Boat Race is the most popular snake boat race in Kerala. This boat race marks the ending of the Tourism Fair and is attracted by a large crowd. Kochi is the starting point for many Kerala Tours and also one of the best Tourist Places in Kerala.
About sixteen huge majestic snake boats representing different villages of the region take part in the race. Each snake boat is manned by four helmsmen, 25 singers and 100 oarsmen, who row in unison to the fast rhythm of the Vanchipattu. The heart throbbing rhythm of drum music and the competitive pushing of snake boats by oarsmen offer an unforgettable experience in the life.
Venue & Date: Organized during the last week of December at Vembanad Lake, Kochi
Kallada Boat Race
Kallada Boat Race also known as Kallada Jalotsavam is a famous boat race held in Kallada River at Munroe Thuruthu, Kollam. It is organized on the 28th day after Onam festival. This is an annual event in which almost all the famous Chundan Vallams take part. The track of the race is in Muthiraparambu – Karuthrakadavu course of Kallada River and it can be conveniently viewed from the beautiful Munroe Island. Around 11 snake boats including Iruttukuthi and Veppam Vallams participate in this race. The winner of this boat race gets the Kallada Rolling Trophy and Rupees 1 Lakh. Besides this, Kollam is one of the best places to visit in Kerala.
Venue: At Munroe Island, Kollam
Distance from Kochi: 144 km
Santhi is an avid traveler and primary contributor to the blogs at Trawell.in. She has explored most of the states in India and gained vast knowledge on tourist destinations in India and abroad. She also contributes content to other travel websites.