oars men.The princely states Thekkum Koor,Vadakkum Koor,Chembakasserry etc were having 'Navy' with snake boats also.The snake boats might had been built for military purposes in the first instance.Now a days Kettu Vallams were converted to house boats and other types of boats are used for entertainment purpose only.
Kerala people enjoy the regatta very much and ONAM period is famous for boat festivals also.
Usually this festival period is for two months -August and September.There will be so many famous boat races in many parts of Kerala mainly in Travancore area.
The boat races begin with 'Champakkulam Moolam Boat race' which is in the Mithunam month (July) every year.All types of boats including snake boats participate in this boat race at Champakkulam river on that day.This festival is related to the 'Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple'.Chempakesseri Maharajah .Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan constructed the temple at Ambalapuzha and while bringing the sacred Idol of the temple
in a rowing boat they took rest at night in the premises of an eminent Christian family of Champakkulam.The next day the head of that family and other villagers including representatives of the Maharajah accompanied in several boats to take the Idol to Ambalapuzha as a procession.To commemorate this auspicious event the Champakkulam Boat race is held on the day the Krishna idol was consecrated in the temple.Before commencing the 'Vallam Kali' the temple authorities visit that residence at Champakkulam with gift articles known as 'Moolakkazcha'.That family members receive them with affection and give them a feast also.In that house there is an ever glowing oil lamp kept in reverence where the Sree Krishna Idol was kept at night five hundred years back.This is also an example to signify the religious harmony prevailing in this state.In Kerala most of the festivals are celebrated by Hindus,Christians and Muslims together.
Like that 'Paippad' Vallamkali(regatta) has connection with the 'Harippad Subramanya Swamy Temple'.
The idol of this temple was found from Kayamkulam river where there was a whirlpool to identify the spot and the recovered Idol was brought to the temple in a procession.The fiesta continued for three days and still this water festival is the longest one in Kerala which extends for consecutive three days.
Kumarakom boat race is held on Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi day.(Birthday Of Sree Narayana Guru).
All types of boats are participated but importance is given to 'Iruttukuthy' type boats here.Sree Narayana Guru started a temple and School there in 1903A.D and he was greeted and taken in a procession of many boats.From that year onwards this festival is held there.
The mega event of all boat races is the 'Nehru Trophy Boat Race' which is held on second saturday of August every year at Punnamada Lake in Alapuzha.A boat race was arranged at Alapuzha when first Prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952.The overjoyed Nehruji climbed on one snake boat also.He sent back a Silver trophy with his signature after returning to Delhi and a boat race was started from next year in the name 'Prime Minister's Trophy Boat race'.Later the name was changed to 'Nehru Trophy Boat Race'.Spectators from all over India and abroad come to witness this great event.This year Nehru Trophy Boat race is on 13th August 2011, Saturday.
The most colorful Boat race is 'Aranmula Boat Race' which is held every year at Aranmula,of Pathanamthitta district, in river Pampa near Parthasarathy Temple.This is held on the 4th day after Thiruvonam.The snake boats used in and around Alapuzha are called as 'Chundan Vallam' only where as the snake boats used at Aranmula are known as 'Chundan Vallam' and also 'Palliyodam'.These boats have direct connection to the Aranmula Temple and are considered sacred .The helm of Aranmula Palliyodams are 20feet high where as for common 'Chundan Vallam' it is smaller.The end part of Aranmula Palliyodam is curved upwards above water level and in Alapuzha Chundan Vallam it is horizontal to the water level.The Alapuzha Chundan Vallam go faster but Aranmula Palliyodams are designed to go slowly and majestically.There are around 50 snake boats under 'Aranmula Palliyoda Seva Sangham'.(The society of Aranmula group snake boats).It is believed that all the Pandava Princes established Vishnu Temples in Kerala which are now situated in and around Chengannur.They are Thrichittattu temple in Chengannur,Vishnu Temple at Puliyoor in Chengannur,Aranmula Temple,Thiruvanvandoor Temple and Thrikodithanam temple.Arjuna established temple at Nilakkal which was shifted to Aranmula 1000years ago.As usual the idol was brought in a procession in which so many boats participated.To commemorate it,this festival is held on Idol's consecration day which was on 'Uthrittati' day.More over it is believed that Arjuna's birthday is also Uthrittathi day.From 'Ranny' to 'Keezhvanmazhy' many sub- division of villages known as 'Kara' on the banks of river Pampa owns,maintains and use these Palliyodams for the Aranmula temple festivals during Onam period and their local regatta events.On Thiruvonam day and Uthrittati day all the oarsmen reach the Aranmula temple on snake boats and they are provided sumptuous feast in the temple premises.For this feast known as 'Valla Sadya' vegetarian dishes and sweets of average 50 varieties are served on banana leaves.As a belief many other people also provide feast to the oarsmen on other days by inviting them to Aranmula temple for getting blessings from the God.The Aranmula snake boats are around 140feet long which can carry more than 100 oarsmen and are adorned with golden lace,flag,colorful umbrellas and festoon which creates pageantry.Usually these Palliyodams moves slowly singing 'Vanchipattu'(special songs meant for this purpose).Earlier at Aranmula there was no race held but the mere display of snake boats and other boats was the custom but boat races was started recently to boost the enthusiasm of participants and spectators.
Thazhathangadi vallamkali which is held at Thazhathangadi river at Kottayam on the first saturday after Thiruvonam day,Kallada boat race,Karuvatta boat race,Indira Gandhi regatta at Kochi Lake,Ranny Boat race,Ayiroor boat race,Chengannur Mundancavu Chathayam Boat Race,Chengannur Pandanadu Muriayikkara Gosalakrishna Vallamkali,Mannar Mahatma Boat race etc are important boat races during the next one and a half month period.