Champakulam Boat Race, the largest and oldest snake boat race in the world takes place in Kerala every year. The date of this race is decided as per the Malayalam calendar and this year, it falls on June 20. The village of Champakulam which is in the Alappuzha district, comes alive during this race with several tourists flocking here to witness a marvelous sight. Here’s everything you need to know about the Champakulam Boat Race.
This boat race is the oldest one in the world and is over 500 years old. Called Champakulam Moolam Vallam in Malayalam, it is celebrated in the month of Mithunam which is usually in June or July every year. The race is preceded by a procession that takes place a day ot two before the race where villagers gather around in a festive spirit. This year, the procession was held on June 19, Saturday and was from Kurichi Karimkulam Sri Parthasarathy temple to Champakulam Madhom Mahalakshmi temple.
The prime reason this tradition began was because King Devanarayana built a temple but later learnt that the idol he wanted to place in it wasn’t auspicious. So his ministers left for Kurichi to get the idol of Shri Krishna from the Karimkulam temple. On their way back, they spent one night at Champakulam and the villagers held a huge procession and lined up snake boats or chundans for them. Even a Christian family helped them to carry the idol to be installed at the temple. After the idol reached its destination, it was installed in a temple in Ambalappuzha. Since then, all these traditions have been followed and every year a boat race is held. Gifts are also presented to the Christian family whose ancestors had helped them years ago with the idol.
The Champakulam Boat Race has several types of boats like the chundan which requires about a 100 oarsmen to row it, to others like veppu, churulan, kuthi, etc. The race is a test of one’s speed, endurance and skill and isn’t an easy feat. Those who take part in it, practice for days to ace the race.
If you are in Kerala and want to witness the Champakulam Boat Race 2016, head to Pampa River where the race will be held. Super star Mammootty will grace the event today. The nearest railway station to Champakulam is Thrissur which lies about 24 km from the village, and the nearest airport is the Cochin International Airport, 77 km away. The colorful boats in the river racing against each other and the people cheering for them is a sight not to be missed!
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