The beautiful land of Kerala takes on an added charm during the monsoon season. Wild habitats become even more mysterious. Backwaters begin to give off special romantic vibes. Tea gardens look fresher than ever. So although many sightseeing spots of Kerala may not be accessible during this season, thousands of travelers visit the land just to absorb its marvellous beauty. But some of them take their holiday experience a level higher. They make sure to get front row seats to the thrilling snake boat races in Kerala. A number of snake boat races take place in Kerala between the months of July and September. These boat race events spread a festive mood throughout the land.
A snake boat is a traditional war boat of Kerala that looks very much like a long canoe. It has absolutely nothing to do with snakes. Some say the boat looks like a snake and so it’s called a snake boat. People who say that have definitely not seen a snake before. During boat races, a number of snake boats line up in the lake. Each of them has around 100 rowers. Now imagine that! A 120 ft boat with 100 rowers and all of them passionately rowing the boat forward with full strength. And that’s just one boat. So you can imagine how lively the lake becomes during a boat race event. The villagers participating in these races take great pride in them. And they have no other intention but to win.
Read ahead to know about some of Kerala’s most popular snake boat races.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is undoubtedly the most famous boat race event in the state of Kerala. It is held in the beautiful Punnamada Lake near Alleppey on the second Saturday of August each year. Different types of boat races take place during this event. But the snake boat race is the most popular among them. The race is 1.4 km long. It features 120 ft long wooden canoes with around 100 rowers in each of them. In 1952, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru came and watched the snake boat race in Alleppey. He was extremely impressed by the event. So he donated a silver trophy to be awarded to the winner of the event. The trophy is a silver miniature snake boat placed in a wooden abacus. It is given to winners of the boat race even today.
Champakkulam Moolam Boat Race
Champakkulam Moolam is one of the earliest boat race events to happen in the history of Kerala. It is held in the Pamba River somewhere in the months of June and July. So it actually kicks off the boat race events of the year. The race falls on the day when the Hindu God Krishna’s idol was installed in Sree Krishna Temple in Ambalapuzha. Legend has it that when the idol was on its way to the temple, the people carrying it stopped for a while in Champakkulam. Many villagers brought beautiful boats to celebrate the event. The boats then escorted the idol to the temple. Even today, a procession takes place in honour of that event. In the procession, you will see a show of wonderfully decorated boats and several performing artists. After the procession, the boat race begins. It is accompanied by Kerala folk songs.
Payippad Boat Race
Payippad Jalotsavam (water carnival) is a three-day water carnival held every year in the Payippad River near Alleppey. The festival commemorates the installation of an idol in the Subramanya Swamy Temple. According to a myth, villagers saw a vision leading them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake. And there, they caught sight of an idol of the Hindu deity Subramanya. Then later, it was put in a temple. The vibrant water festival celebrating this episode spreads joy and excitement with its boat race events and water boat shows. The Payippad boat race is unique in that it is the only boat race festival in Kerala that takes place continuously for three days. The race features snake boats as well as traditional country boats.
Aranmula Boat Race
The Aranmula Boat Race is the earliest boat race festival to happen to Kerala. It takes place in Aranmula during the prestigious festival of Onam. According to legend, a devout Brahmin was going to arrange a feast for the festival of Onam. All requirements for the feast were being brought on a boat to the Aranmula Parthasarthy Temple. But before they could reach the temple, one of the enemy groups attacked the boat. And right then, a fleet of snake boats came to the rescue. The Aranmula Boat Race event celebrates this dramatic episode of Kerala’s history. Along with the thrilling boat races, the festival also features oarsmen, dressed in mundu and turban, singing traditional folk songs of Kerala. The snake boats used in the race have ornamental umbrellas, golden laces at the head and flags. So the festival looks grand and pompous.
Presidents Trophy Boat Race
The Presidents Boat Race is a popular boat race event that takes place in the Ashtamudi Lake of Kollam on the 1st of November every year. The event is named President’s Trophy Boat since the President of India attends the race and presents the trophy to the winners. The track for the race is 1.2 km long. The oarsmen row the snake boats in accord with the rhythm of a fast-paced boat song of Kerala. So you can imagine the adrenaline rush caused by the event not only to the hundreds of oarsmen but also to the thousands of spectators, both locals and tourists. The grand and joyful event is a must-see attraction if you’re visiting Kerala in November.