Boat Races in Kerala: Things to Know & Where to Watch

Boat races are one of the most exciting events in the annual calendar of the Keralites. Usually held post monsoon, boat races in Kerala take up the center stage. Also, referred to as Snake Boats Races or Chundan Vallam – these energetic races pull a huge crowd from the different parts of the globe. These canoe-style boats are used by the people during the Kuttanad region of the state.

Interestingly, these boats get their name from their respective long and slender shape. A traditional war boat, it can 100 feet long and hold more than 90 rowers. Winning a Chundan Vallam is a matter of pride for each village. Each hamlet runs a year-round rigorous practice session, and trains its teams to win the competition.

Important Boat Races in Kerala (Arranged Date-wise)

1.  Champakkulam Boat Race

Date: Usually July

Where: Pampa River, Champakkulam (Changanassery), Alappuzha district

Possibility one of the oldest boat races in Kerala, the Champakkulam Moolam kicks off the racing season for the state each year. During the race, one can hear the cheering fans rooting for their favorite team, while energetic racers paddling their canoe forward on the Pampa River at the beats of the onboard drummers. Overall, the entire sight is an energetic and exhilarating experience for the spectators as well as the participants.

See also Top 10 Scenic Rivers in Kerala

How to reach?
The small town of Champakkulam is located in the Alappuzha district. Nearest railway station to the town is located at Alappuzha (Alleppey) – just 14 km (8.7 mi) away. Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport to the town. Tourists can board a ferry from the Champakulam Ferry for transit as well.
Boat Races in Kerala

2.  Nehru Trophy

Date: 2nd Sunday of August

Where: Punnamda Lake, Alleppey

The Nehru Trophy is often regarded as one of the premier and most prestigious boat races in Kerala. The race is named after the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru who once visited the race during the early 1950s. Held on the second Sunday of August, in the heart of the Punnamda Lake in Alleppey, draws a huge crowd from the different corners of the state. Contestants race on traditional canoe-style boats, in a bid to reach the finishing line the fastest. The entire sight is often known to cause adrenaline rush for the spectators as well.

How to reach?

Alleppey is a beautiful city, well connected to the rest of the country via good network of trains and buses. The main railway station, Alappuzha (Stop ID: ALLP) is just 33 km (20.5 mi) from the Punnamda Lake. One can hire a taxi or board a bus to reach the venue. The bus rides will cost around INR150, while cab fares can be a bit steeper. It can reach up to INR700. The nearest airport is at Cochin.

P.S: The tickets for the Nehru trophy range between INR100 to 3000, and can be brought online. Also, carrying an umbrella during the race is recommended.

Kerala Boat Races

3.  Payippad Jalotsavam

Date: September

Where: Payippad backwaters, Payippad, Alappuzha

The Payippad Jalotsavam, or simply Jalotsavam, held in the Payippad backwaters of the village with the same name. Located in the Alappuzha district of Kerala, the race has a deep connection to the nearby Haripad Sree Subrahmanya Swamy temple and its deity – Shree Ayyappan. It is believed that few pious villagers of the nearby families received division that the idol of the Sri Subrahmanyam is hidden under a whirlpool in the nearby Kayamkulam River. Upon searching the idol was indeed found in the marked location, and brought back into the village via boats. To honor the arrival of the divine figure into the village, the three-day festival and race is organized. Entry to the race is free.

How to reach?
Being one of the oldest boat races in Kerala, the Payippad Jalotsavam attracts a huge number of visitors. Tiruvalla is the nearest railway station to the sporting venue hosting the event. And, the nearest airport is located at Cochin.

4.  Aranmula Boat Race

Date: September

Where: River Pamba, Aranmula, Pathanamthitta District

Undoubtedly, one of the grandest boat races in Kerala the Aranmula Boat Race or Aranmula Uthrittathi Vallamkali is a spectacle worth watching. The canoes which participate in the race are referred to as Palliyodams.

Just like many Indian traditions, the origin of this race is also associated with beautiful legends and myths. According to the village stories, a devout priest was supposed to send off a sumptuous Thiruvona Sadya (feast) to Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy Temple via traditional canoes. Unfortunately, at en-route the carriage was attacked by bandits. But it was saved when the villagers from the nearby hamlets came for the rescue on their traditional snake boats.

How to reach?
The nearest railway station to Aranmula is Chengannur. Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport to the venue.

5.  President’s Trophy Boat Race

Date: 1st November

Where: Ashtamudi Backwaters, Kollam

Held on the occasion of Kerala Piravi, a state holiday, the President's Trophy Boat Race is running since 2011. The race is organized in the Ashtamudi Backwaters of Kollam District and visited by the Honorable President of India. The race commences from the Thevally Palace and crossing around 1,250 meters ends at the house boat terminal.

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