If there’s one sport you shouldn’t miss watching in Kerala, it’s their spectacular regattas or boat races. They happen almost all round the year, commemorating different occasions. The most famous ones are the Nehru Trophy Boat Race and Champakulam Boat Race. However, the most buzz is around the Aranmula Boat Race which happens around Onam (August-September) every year. This year it’s happening on September 15, the last day of the Onam festival.
Legend goes that, once when a devotee was carrying offerings for Lord Krishna, his boat got looted. This saddened him to no end, and God himself appeared before him to console him. He advised the devotee to construct larger boats, that could be rowed by several men at a time, and could easily bypass any trouble on the water. This is how the snake boat originated, and the people of Aranmula to this day believe that the boats possesses some of the attributes of God.
Held on Pampa River, Aranmula Boat Race takes place in the vicinity of Parthasarathy Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The banks of the river attracts an incredible number of people every year who wish to witness the event unfold.
The event is more a part of festive celebrations rather than a competition. While winning does bring a lot of joy to the villagers, there is no fierce rivalry between them. One would typically see 4 helmsmen, 100 oarsmen and 25 singers in each of these 100 feet long snake boats, locally know as Chundan Vallams. The atmosphere is simply exhilarating with all the shouts and cheers, and it is a visual treat to watch the decorated boats racing through the water. They are beautifully adorned with golden laces, colourful flags and opulent umbrellas. The rowers are all dressed in spotlessly white dhotis and turbans.
The nearest airport is the Trivandrum International Airport, about 117km away, while the nearest railway station is at Chengannur, about 10km away.