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Kerala is known as God's own country for a reason. Its pristine natural beauty is unparalleled. The local traditions and customs, and the festival celebrations are as colourful as they can get. Speaking of traditions and celebrations, the Snake Boat Race or Vallam Kalli (as the locals call it) is among the grandest celebrations and customs thriving in the state.  

Every year, during the monsoon season, millions of tourists from all over the world come to Kerala, especially to places like Alleppey and Kochi to watch the Snake Boat Race. Each of these magnificent boats are more than 100 ft long and have 110 rowers who try to push the boat ahead and compete in a fierce battle against other teams.  

These races bring the serene backwaters of Kerala alive and set them on fire. The chants of the rowers and the rhythms of the drums creates a beautiful spectacle that is a cynosure to the eye.  

If you have always been fascinated by this race, and intrigued to know about. We will shed some light on this beautiful race-cum-festival, which is a pride of Kerala.

What is a snake boat race? 

Before you let your thoughts run wild about the race, let us tell you, it has nothing to do with snakes. The race gets its names from the shape of the boat that the oarsman races on. The locals call it Chundan Vallam, a canoe-style boat. For the locals and especially the oarsmen that use the boat in the race worship it as their deity.  

These boats are traditional war boats from Kerala and every village in Kerala has its own snake boat and the best oarsmen from the village represent them and compete against others. The boat race in Kerala is not just a sporting event but it is an integral part of Kerala's culture and the oarsmen have a sense of pride attached to their boats, which makes the competition even more exciting. The race also represents the strong bond and a sense of attachment that the local communities have with the backwaters.  

Origin of snake boat race in Kerala 

The history of the boat festival in Kerala is more than 400 years old. It is said that an ancient King of Alleppey wanted to create a strong boat to fight against the nearby kings along the canal. His loss in one of the battles was the motivation behind creating these majestic boats. 

Major boat races in Kerala 

Nehru Trophy 

Throughout the year, many snake boat races are held across Kerala. But none is more popular and bigger than the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race. The location for this annual mega event is Punnamada Lake in Alleppey. The race is named after the former Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and it has been held since 1952. You need to buy tickets to watch this race and the ticket price ranges from Rs. 100 to Rs. 3000.  

Champakulam Moolam Boat Race 

Held on Pamba River, this boat race is the oldest snake boat race in Kerala. It is held on Moolam day, which marks the day when the idol of Lord Krishna was installed in Sree Krishna Temple in Ambalappuzha. 

Payippad Boat Race 

This boat race is held to commemorate the installation of  Lord Sree Subramanya’s idol in Subramanya Swamy Temple and it continues for three days. The race is held during the Onam festival, and it is one of the integral aspects of the celebrations for the locals and one of the most anticipated races in the state.   

Watching the Snake Boat Race is an experience of a lifetime. Make sure that you include this in your to-do list on your visit to Kerala. The race also is a fine showcase of Kerala’s beautiful heritage. If you are planning to witness the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alleppey, as soon as you arrive in the city, you can head straight to Club Mahindra Arookutty, one of the best resorts in Alleppey and enjoy the best of everything that this beautiful coastal town offers. It would be the perfect base to see the race and explore other popular spots nearby. 

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