Why Does Vallamkali, Kerala’s Renowned Snake Boat Race Take Place During Onam?

by Tejashee Kashyap
Why Does Vallamkali, Kerala’s Renowned Snake Boat Race Take Place During Onam?

Vallamkali during Onam is much more than a boat race. This tradition not only connects the people of Kerala to their roots but also beckons visitors from around the world to witness the beauty of this unique festival. This has been practised for a while and takes place each year during Kerala’s harvest festival. This long-standing ritual takes place each year during Onam.

Why Does Vallamkali Happen During Onam?

The timing of Vallamkali during Onam holds a deep-rooted significance. The backwaters and rivers of Kerala swell with water during the monsoons, making them ideal for boat races. It is stated that this lovely practice has a backstory. The head of Kattoor Mana, who belonged to the Nambudiri dynasty, was said to have prayed every day. To complete this process, he was waiting for a beggar to arrive and receive the food that he was presenting.

Another story talks about how during the reign of Maharaja Devanarayana, who ruled the region of Chembakassery in the 14th century initiated boat races as a way to promote unity and cooperation among the various communities in his kingdom.

The boat race showcases Kerala’s diverse cultural history. There are many distinct boat kinds, each specific to a different region, thanks to the state’s complex network of rivers and backwaters. Vallamkali displays this diversity by having a variety of boats compete in races, including Chundan Vallams (snake boats), Iruttukuthi, and Veppu Vallams.

Also Read: Head To These 8 Restaurants In Chennai For A Traditional Onam Sadhya Feast

Vallamkali Has Now Become A Popular Tourist Attraction

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru cherished this occasion so much, that he even established a great prize for the race’s winner.

The boats are known as snake boats because of their form. The very trained craftsmen who make the boats do so. The villagers have an emotional bond with the boats and regard them like deities.  The boats are meticulously prepared, painted, and decorated, each bearing the legacy of its respective village. The vessels used for Vallamkali are not your typical vessels. These vessels’ dimensions are set.

Vallamkali has become a significant tourist attraction in Kerala. Every year, thousands of tourists from across the country and the world flock to Kerala to witness these spectacular boat races.

So, have you ever seen Vallamkali or Kerala’s boat race?

Cover image credits: Canva