Snake Boat Racing in Kerala
Snake Boat racing are numerous popular water events that take place annually on the backwaters of Kerala mainly between July and September. The word ‘snake’ is the description of the shape of the boat, there are no snakes involved! These colourful boats are traditional war boats at a 100 to 120 feet long and hold 100 rowers.
History of Snake Boat Racing
These infamous events have over 400 years of history associated with them and can be traced back to the kings of Alleppey. The kings used to fight with each other in boats along the canals. When one king suffered a heavy loss he got boat architects to build a bigger and better vessel: the snake boat or ‘Chundan Vallam’. The races take place to the rhythm of the old boat songs, sung at full volume!
Four main snake boat races (and as many as 15 minor ones) are held with much excitement during various festivals, in and around Alleppey. They are:
- The spectacular Nehru Trophy is held on Alleppey’s Punnamda Lake.
- The oldest race, the Champakkulam Moolam, is held along the river at Champakkulam (Changanassery), around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Alleppey.
- The Payippad Jalotsavam is held on Payippad Lake, 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Alleppey.
- The Aranmula Boat Race is held along the Pampa River at Aranmula, near Chengannur, around 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Alleppey.
A popular way and perfect viewing point to witness these races are by staying on the houseboats. Day-time and overnight options are available and can coincide with the festivals.