The rivers and backwaters of Kerala enrich the region’s culture in a variety of ways. One of the ways in which it manifests is the Vallam Kali, the traditional boat races of Kerala. Mostly celebrated during the harvest festival of Onam in autumn, it includes many kinds races with the traditional long boats of Kerala. Vallam Kali even has its own form of poetry-song called Vanchipattu (boatsong) which is sung by oarsmen while rowing and even during some of the rituals that precede a race. The race of chundan vallam ('snake boat') is the most important event. Other types of boats which also participate in other race are churulan vallam, iruttukuthy vallam, odi vallam, veppu vallam, vadakkanody vallam and kochu vallam. One of the most popular events is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha.
One of the most popular boat races which also happens to be the oldest is the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race. It is held on Pampa River at Champakulam near Alappuzha around June / July every year which marks the beginning of monsoons in Kerala. With a tradition that goes back to centuries, it is held to mark the day when the idol of Lord Krishna was transported by boat and installed at the Sri Krishna Temple in Ambalapuzha. The festivities include stunning water floats, brightly-decorated boats in addition to the Chundan Vallam race. The banks of the Pampa are crowded with spectators cheering the oarsmen. The heavily decorated snake boats are rowed by hundreds of oarsmen making for quite a visual spectacle.
Venue & Date: 28th July 2018 at Champakulam
Distance from Kochi: 73 km
Another hugely popular race is the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, celebrated on the second Saturday of August in the serene waters of Punnamda Lake in Alappuzha. Boats from different villages of the Kuttanad , with close to 150 oarsmen each participate in this race. More tha two lakh visitors gather to watch the boatmen display their skills on the 1.5 km long stretch of lake. The festival is not associated to any temple and hence it is a completely commercial event. You will need to buy tickets to view the race.
Venue & Date: 11th August 2018 at the Punnamda Lake, Alleppey
Distance from Kochi: 58 km
Payippad Boat Race or Jalotsavom is another spectacular boat race of Kerala held every year on the Payippad River at Payippad village in Alappuzha. It is celebrated every year during Onam to commemorate the installation of the idol of Lord Subramanian at Haripad Subramanya Temple. Payippad Boat Race is unique as it is the only boat race held for three days continuously and also it has the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. Apart from the lovely snake boat races, the event is made more impressive by colourful water pageants. Pilgrims throng to this place from all parts of Kerala to participate in the festivities and watch the exciting race.
Venue & Date: 27th August 2018 at Payippad
Distance from Kochi: 94 km
Aranmula Snake Boat Race also called the Aranmula Vallam Kali, is a two day festival held during Onam. Well-known for its grandeur and centuries-old history, the Aranmula Boat Race is associated with the annual festival at Sri Parthasarathy Temple (dedicated to Krishna in his avatar as Arjun’s charioteer in the Mahabharat) and is usually held on the last two days of the festival. The Aranmula Vallam Kali is more of a temple ritual than a race. More than 25 giant traditional Palliyodams, that seat 100 rowers, 25 singers and 15 helmsmen, participate in the race. Each snake boat is decorated with colourful umbrellas, golden tassels and flags.
Venue & Date: 29th August 2018 at Aranmula
Distance from Kochi: 111 km
Kallada Boat Race also known as Kallada Jalotsavam is a famous boat race held in Kallada River at Munroe Thuruthu, Kollam. It is organized on the 28th day after Onam festival. This is an annual event in which almost all the famous Chundan Vallams take part. The track of the race is in Muthiraparambu — Karuthrakadavu course of Kallada River and it can be conveniently viewed from the beautiful Munroe Island. Around 11 snake boats including Iruttukuthi and Veppam Vallams participate in this race. The winner of this boat race gets the Kallada Rolling Trophy and Rupees 1 Lakh. Besides this, Kollam is one of the best places of attraction in Kerala.
Venue: At Munroe Island, Kollam
Distance from Kochi: 144 km