Vallamkali which when literally translated means boat game is a popular traditional form of boat racing practiced enthusiastically in the backwaters of God’s own country, Kerala. The beauty of Kerala lies in its serenity but not during the Onam festival when the locals indulge in some fun filled vallamkali. There are different kinds of boats used in the festival but the major attraction are the Chundam Vallam boats which are also called Snake-boats due to its literal meaning.
Like is always the case, there are a number of legends associated with the Valllamkali. When it comes to the Snake-boats, they were crafted by a boat craftsmen Kodipunna Venkida Narayanan Assari who was ordered to create a boat that only could transport a large number of boatmen but do so with immaculate efficiency. The boat came in use under the rule of Chempakassery Raja.
This sport is practiced as a religious offering to Lord Parthasarathy and is often played during autumn commemorating the harvest festival Onam. Most of the boat sings are in Malayalam which are sung during the rowing of boats. The songs are essential part of the festival as they are believed to motivate the oarsmen breaking through their exhaustion.
The sport is enjoyed thoroughly in the backwaters of Arunmula in Kerala. This beautiful town is known especially as the center of Kerala tourism for it boasts of a picturesque landscape. Lush with green paddy fields and gurgling back waters, this town is a beauty to reckon with.
Making of the Chundam Vallam
The boats derive their name from its shape since it has its hood raised which when looked from afar resembles a snake. They are made from the wood of the Anjili tree spanning a length anywhere from 100 to 139 ft. The raised hood can reach heights up to 20 ft. and the boats can carry almost 100 to 125 oarsmen. The boats are known for its speed and stealth.
On a Competitive Level
While it is played as a part of a festival in Kerala, there are many events besides this organized where the sports is played at a competitive level. Among all, Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most popular and most participated one. It is held every year in Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha.
Vallamkali is a sport that is more fun than it sounds! If you are into boating and love the waters, don’t hold back and add it to your list of things you want to do at least once!