Kerala is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, and rightly so. With its lush greenery, majestic temples and variety of backwaters, waterfalls and other water bodies, Kerala has something for everyone.
But aside from its natural and cultural attractions, Kerala is famous for a unique event: the Vallamkali festival, also known as the boat race of Kerala. Despite its name, the festival consists of several races, which are categorized as either major or minor events. The origin of the Vallamkali festival can be traced as far back as the 13th century, making it an exciting spectator event and culturally significant tradition.
History of the festival
Like many historical events, there is no undisputed version of the history of this festival. People often disagree about various aspects of each version. However, there is one fact that remains the same: the origin of the Vallamkali festival is actually the origin of the boats raced in the events. Internationally known as snake boats, locals call them Chundan Vallam. They are long, relatively narrow boats that can hold more than 100 rowers in two lines. They are classified as canoes, and the Vallamkali festival is often called a canoe racing festival. As per one of the common versions, the King of Chembakassery directed a craftsman to build a boat designed for war. This occurred during a 13th century and after that, the evolution of the boat from a war vessel to a racing boat happened organically, with little evidence to clarify how.
Cultural and tourism significance
Despite the time that has passed, the specifications of the Chundan Vallam boat have remained the same. This is because every village owns a snake boat, which is worshipped as a deity. Aside from the Chundan Vallam, there are also other types of boats used in the canoe racing festival.
This festival attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists every year. The events are exciting to watch, and the energy of the race has been described as electric. Kerala is usually known for its peaceful forests and calm backwaters. That is why this energetic event is so popular, it stands out even among the extraordinary.
Time to visit
Every year, the exact dates of the famed boat race of Kerala are posted on Kerala’s official tourism website. However, they always begin around the time of Onam, an important harvest festival in Kerala. Onam is generally considered to be a time for celebration and takes place sometime in the months of August and September. There are many races spread out over the span of weeks, so don’t worry if you miss a few races. There’s many more to enjoy.