Vallam Kali, also known as Kerala Boat Race, is one of the most picturesque and traditional festivals in southern India. Every year the Vallam Kali festival is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam, which generally falls in the calendar months of August and September. Vallam Kali is world-famous for its enthusiasm, postcard-perfect moments, and grandeur. Vallam Kali is basically a form of canoe racing where a large number of longboats compete with each other along the river.
Origin, History, and Significance of Vallam Kali
In 13th-century Kerala, the feudal kingdoms of Kayamkulam and Chembakassery declared war with each other, which led to the construction of Chundan Vallam, a war boat. The boat’s construction required special skills, and a famous carpenter of the city was assigned the task. Thus, he created a snake boat, which was an amalgamation of technical features and aesthetic beauty. The snake boats can still be seen in Kerala, while the oldest one was called Parthasarathi Chundan.
At present, Vallam Kali also involves races of different kinds of paddled longboats. However, the Chundan Vallam boat race is the biggest event, as well as the most famous tourist attractions in Kerala. Vallam Kali event is also held at Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, Kerala, where it is known as Nehru Trophy Boat Race. The team winning the race wins the Nehru Trophy and a prize of 6 lac rupees.
When is Vallam Kali Celebrated
Vallam Kali or Kerala Boat Race is mainly conducted during the harvest month of Onam, which generally falls in August and September. In Kerala, four boat races are held between the months of July and September. All of these races happened in and around the beautiful town of Alleppey. The races are:
- Nehru Trophy Race
- Payippad Jalotsavam
- Aranmula Boat Race
- Champakulam Moolam
The exact dates of these boat races differ based on the lunar month of harvest. This snake boat race is organized annually in Kerala when the monsoon is at its peak. According to the legends, Vallam Kali also marks the day when Lord Krishna brought a boat to the famous Ambalapuzha temple.
How is Vallam Kali Celebrated and Where to Go
Vallam Kali is celebrated with a number of festivities and fervor. Hundreds of bright and colorful boats gather at the river with energetic men rowing them. The boats are also decorated with vibrant colored umbrellas and flags. While this snake boat race itself is a spectacular event, another thing that adds more to its charm is Vachipattu, a form of poetry in the Malayalam language sung in chorus during Vallam Kali. More than a ritual, Vallam Kali is a ritual in remembrance of Kerala’s grandeur centuries ago. If you would like to participate in the Vallam Kali festivities, you can book a bus ticket online through redBus to one of the Kerala towns and celebrate. Different colors of Vallam Kali can be enjoyed at the following places:
- The Aranmula boat race is one of ancient snake boat races in Kerala. It is held in the heritage village of Aranmula at the banks of the river Pampa in Pathanamthitta district.
- The three-day festival of Payippad Vallaarattu, popularly known as Jalotsavam, is held in Payippad Lake, which is only 6 kilometers from Haripad, Kerala.
- The famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in Alappuzha in Punnamada Lake. Here, it is celebrated to mark the installation of Lord Subramanian idol in the Subramanya Temple.
- Held at Kallada River, the Kallada Jalotsavam is also another spectacular event to attend. It is celebrated on the 28th day after Onam. The winner gets the Kallada Rolling Trophy and the prize of one lac rupees.
- Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is also one of the ancient forms of snake boat races near Alappuzha, where one can witness the fervor of the festival.
- If you’re looking forward to visiting one of the aforementioned places to celebrate the Vallam Kali or Kerala Boat Race festival, book your bus tickets online in advance and reach in time. Since most of these places are small towns in Kerala, buses are the most convenient and affordable transportation mode to reach.
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