At a distance of 15 Km from Pathanamthitta, 53 Km from Alappuzha & 57 Km from Kumarakom, Aranmula is a Aranmula Snake Boat Race, also known as Aranmula Vallamkali is a popular boat race held in the never ending Kerala Backwaters. This is an annual boat race held in Aranmula district of Kerala during the Onam festival in the month of August-September. It is also known as Uthrittathi Boat Race.
Aranmula Vallamkali owes its origin to the Sri Parthasarathy Temple situated on the banks of the Pamba River. The Vallamkali, associated with the annual festival of Sri Parthasarathy, is usually held on the last two days of the festival. The event that attracts tourists from all over the world is conducted not to win any trophy or prize but to celebrate the anniversary of the Sri Krishna idol installation, the main deity at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. It is conducted in the Pamba River in front of the temple to commemorate the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna.
The snake boats assemble near the Parthasarathy Temple before the race begins. Festivities take over the whole town as well as the waters. The boat race is famous worldwide and has become an icon of Kerala, attracting thousands of tourists every year during the festival of Onam.
This annual boat race during Onam attracts tourists from all over India and the world. The snake boats are called 'Palliyodams' and their structures resemble snakes. These boats are around 100 feet in length, have narrow fronts with raised hoods and rear portions towering at a height of around 20 ft. Around 40 boats participate in this annual event and each boat accommodates about 120 people including helmsmen, oarsmen and singers. Colorful and vivid flags are set on the boat's head and colorful parasol in the center offers a beautiful spectacle.
The race begins in the afternoon after the morning prayers and rituals. Songs called 'Vanchipattu' are sung during the races. Groups of men and singers who sing stridently in a rhythmic manner gather along the banks of the rivers and in snake boats. The speed and the graceful rhythmic movements of the boat offer an amazing show. After the water sport there is an elaborate feast in the Aranmula temple. Aranmula Vallamkali, organised under the sponsorship of Palliyoda Seva Sangam, is more of a water festival than a competition. For the past few years, the Central Tourism Ministry has been providing financial assistance for preserving and promoting this legendary snake boat race.