The story behind Kerala boat races

Boat races in Kerala carry with them stories of battles that took place in the backwaters of Kuttanad, the rhythms and tunes of devotional songs a generation sang while accompanying their deities in boats and the ecstasy of life in this Central Travancore region of the ‘God’s own country’. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
The races are held mainly during the June –September period of every year, which also marks the beginning of the harvest festival, Onam in the State. Photo: H. Vibhu
The popular boat races in the Stae are Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali (Boat race), Nehru Trophy Boat Race at Alappuzha, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Payippad Jalotsavam, Kumarakom Boat Race and Indira Gandhi Boat Race at Ernakulam. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
The names of these boats reveal their unique style and history associated with them. Chundan Vallams (snake boats) were said to be Navy boats of Chempakasserry rulers in Kuttanad. Photo: H. Vibhu
‘Oadis’ or ‘Iruttukuthies’ were used for smuggling. The other boats that are used for various events of the races include ‘Veppu Vallam’, ‘Vadakkanody Vallam’ ad ‘Kochu Vallam’. Photo: H. Vibhu
The design and the make up of these boats vary depending on the requirements of the teams. Photo: H. Vibhu
Snake Boats can accommodate around 150 rowers, and is nearly a hundred feet long. Provincial rulers in the region used them to send more warriors against their enemies in the backwaters. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
‘Kochu Vallams’ were used for ordianry purposes. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
The watery landscape of Kuttanad and its people prepare with enthusiasm every year for the event. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
Tree trunks of Kadampu and Anjili (Artocarpus Hirsuta) are used to make these boats. A snake boat costs around 6 lakhs. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
The names of the boat races also finger at the religious and cultural aspects of the event. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
Deep down the backwaters of Kuttanad lays the waves and currents of the religious processions of the past. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
Women have a separate category in Nehru Trophy race, which is held in the fond memory of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Previous years have witnessed foreign delegates participating in the event. However, this time the delegates were from the same region. Photo: H.Vibhu
Women take a break during the training. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
A view of the cultural procession that was taken out in connection with the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha on August 11, 2010. Photo:H.Vibhu
Sitaram Yechury, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism and Kerala Minister G. Sudhakaran present the Nehru Trophy to winners, Kumarakom Town Boat Club, after the finals of the 58th Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha. Photo:H.Vibhu
The Karichal 'chundan' overtakes its nearest rival in the final race
of the 450-plus-year-old Champakulam Moolam Boat Race held on the
Pampa River in Alappuzha, in June, 2010. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
Boat races attract a good number of tourists every year to the State. These tourists make a beeline to the spectators' gallery for the 2010 Champakulam Moolam Boat Race in Alappuzha. Photo: Dennis Marcus Mathew
Each race leaves behind ripples of excitement in the minds of participants and spectators to make them wait again for the next year to come. Photo: H. Vibhu

Other Slideshows