Aranmula Vallamkali or the Aranmula
Snake Boat Race is a river boat fiesta that
takes place every year in the Aranmula district
of Kerala. This event is celebrated
between August and September, during the Onam
festival. This legendary boat race is an
important event in the state of Kerala and has
been celebrated for almost past 1,000 years.
Background of the race
This boat race is organised on the Pamba River in front of Parthasarathy temple to commemorate the important event of the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna. The participants partake in the race not to win rewards but to celebrate the anniversary of the installation of the Shri Krishna idol at the temple.
About the boats
The boats in the race are known as snake boats or 'Palliyodams'. They look like a huge snake with its hood raised high up. These boats are made from the bark of the Anjili tree. They are approximately 100 ft in length. They have a long tapering front part and the rear part escalating to a height of about 20 ft. Each of the 'Palliyodams' taking part in the event is named after its village. Only the men of the village are allowed to get into their respective boats. The boat is commanded by the village leader. All the participants in the boat, about 100 rowers, 4 helmsmen and 25 singers, have to wear a turban and white mundu (loin clothes).
How is it celebrated
Aranmula Vallamkali begins in the afternoon after the morning rituals and prayers. Vanchipattu or the boatman's song is sung along the river bank and also on the participating boats by the singers during the race. The snake boats move in perfect rhythm of the song. At the end of the race a grand feast is organized in the Aranmula temple.
Aranmula Vallamkali is celebrated year after year under the sponsorship of Palliyoda Seva Sangam. Even the Central Tourism Ministry provides required financial aid to promote and preserve this ancient boat race.