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FESTIVALS - Onam - Vallamkali (Boat Race)
Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race is the most enchanting facet of the festival of Onam and an important tourist attraction of the state of Kerala and draws a large number of domestic and international tourists.
Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race
Its popularity is soaring up every year. Major boat races are:
Nehru Trophy Boat Race.
This biggest and colorful event is held on the Punnamada Backwaters of Alappuzha district on the second Saturday in the month of August. It is Started in the year 1952, in an impromptu fashion in honor of the late Prime Minister, Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the biggest team sport event in the world today. Spectacular boat pageantry held before the actual race is the other highlight of the event.

Aranmulla vallam kali.
This colourful spectacle of the race is performed on the banks of the river Pamba at Aranmulla where a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.

Nearly 30 chundan vallams or snake boats participate in the festival. Singing traditional boat songs, the oarsmen, in white dhotis and turbans, splash their oars into the water to guide their boats to cruise along like a fish on the move. The golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the center make it a spectacular show of pageantry too.


Each snake boat belongs to a village along the banks of the River Pampa and is worshipped like a deity. Every year the boat is oiled mainly with fish oil, coconut shell, and carbon, mixed with eggs to keep the wood strong and the boat slippery in the water. The village carpenter carries out annual repairs lovingly and people take pride in their boat, which represents their village and is amed after it.

The one end of the boat is shaped like cobra’s head and it is from this shape that boat has derived its name. Skilled craftsmen and a lot of patience meticulously craft each boat. The boat is about 100 feet long and usually made of anjili (Artocarpus hirsuta), or sometimes teak and kadamb (Naucleacadamba) wood is also used.

Each boat comprises of 150 men of whom four are helmsmen, 25 men are singers and 125 are the actual oarsmen.

Women also participate with lot of enthusiasm in a separate the boat race conducted for them.

Several other boat races at Thalavady, Kumarakam, Mannar, Thiruvandoo, Neerattupuram etc. are also conducted in the various rivers of Kerala and draw massive public attention.

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