Aranmula Boat Race

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The Aranmula Boat Race the oldest river boat fiesta in Kerala, the south western State of India is held during Onam (August-September). It takes place at Aranmula, near a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The snake boats move in pairs to the rhythm of full-throated singing and shouting watched by an exciting crowd. [1] In 1972, snake boat races were also added to the program of the festival. Thousands of people gather on the banks of the river Pampa to watch the snake boat races. In 2009 forty one snake boats or chundan vallams had participated in the festival. The oarsmen sing traditional boat songs and wear white mundu and turbans. The golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the center make it a show of pageantry too.

Aranmula temple[edit]

Aranmula is about 128 km from Trivandrum, capital city of Kerala. It is situated on the banks of the river Pampa. The famous temple at Aranmula is dedicated to Sree Parthasarathy of Lord Krishna as the divine charioteer of Arjuna. A rough estimate puts the age of this temple to 1700 years.

Palliyodams (snake boats)[edit]

Aranmula Uthrattathi Boat Race

Palliyodams are Aranmula’s unique snake boats (‘’Chundan Vallam’’) which devotees hold in reverence, considering it as the divine vessel of the presiding deity in Sree Parthasarathy temple. These Palliyodams belong to different ‘’karas’’ (rustic parts) on the banks of river Pampa. Each one will usually have 4 helmsmen, rowers and singers. It is decorated with golden lace. There will be a flag and two or three ornamental umbrellas.

Construction[edit]

Locating a suitable tree preferably Anjili, cutting it down and bringing to the location for construction is the first step. Selecting an auspicious day and time work begins. All these are according to Vedas, an ancient treatise on building of wooden boats. These boats are about 100 to 138 ft in length, with the rear portion towering to a height of about 20 ft. and a long tapering front portion. When completed it resembles a snake with its hood raised. Its hull is built of planks precisely 83 feet in length and six inches wide.

Care of a snake boat[edit]

Every year the boats are oiled mainly with fish oil, coconut shell, and carbon, mixed with eggs to keep the wood strong and the boat slippery in the water. The village carpenter carries out annual repairs and people take pride in their boat, which is named after and represents their village.

Getting onto a snake boat[edit]

  1. Only men of the village are allowed to be in the boat.
  2. Dress. White loin cloth (Mundu) and turban.
  3. No shirt and footwear.

Traditionally it will be commanded by a Kaarnavan / Karanaadhan (Village leader) with First Adanayampu and under him there will be three main oarsmen who control the movement of the boat with 12 feet long main rudder-oar (Adanayampu). Sitting two in row along the length of the Boat there will be the oarsmen, They row in rhythm of the vanchipattu (boatman's song). Standing on the platform in the middle of the boat, the main singer will lead the vanchipattu. A few singers will be with the main leader while others will stand at the middle between the oarsmen.

Vanchipattu[edit]

The singers lead the ‘’Vanchipattu’’ (song) which the oarsmen will repeat and they move the oars in circular form according to its rhythm. Usually the selection will be from ‘’Kuchela vrythom Vanchipattu.’’

Example: (in Malayalam) Note that The oar should make one full circle between the dashes (-).

Singers – Paranja-thangane thanney-
Oarsmen - Thei thei -thakathei thei thoy-
Singers – Paranja-thangane thanney-
Oarsmen – Thitha tha thi- thei thei,
Singers – Paranja-thangane thanney – paathirava-yallo Pathni
Oarsmen – Paranja-thangane thanney – paathirava-yallo Pathni
All together – Ohh thei thei - thei thei - thei thakathoy,
Thii thitho - thiyo thikitho Thim.
Singers - Kuranj-onnurangatte njan
Oarsmen - Thei thei -thakathei thei thoy-
Singers - Kuranj-onnurangatte njan
Oarsmen – Thitha tha thi- thei thei,
Singers - Kuranj-onnurangatte njan ulak -irezhum

Festivals[edit]

A number of colourful festivals rich in traditions are held at Aranmula temple every year. The most important festival is the traditional palliyodam regatta (boat festival). Three important events take place in which the Palliyodams participate. All these are solemn religious custom and there were no competitive races.

Thiruvonam[edit]

On ‘’Thiruvonam’’ day people of Kerala celebrate it with a feast. Aranmula celebrations begin with the arrival of Thiruvonathoni (special boats) from Kattoor. For a sumptuous meal for the Lord at Aranmula, a boat with the necessary provisions, and an ever-burning lamp, set off its journey from the temple at Kattoor at 6 pm so that it could reach Aranmula temple by 4 am the next day, the Thiruonam day. At 6 pm long main rudder-oar (Adanayampu) will be presented to the temple at Kattoor and then it will be handed over to the leading oarsman. Mr. Bhattathiri of Mangaatt Illam with 18 men will get into the boat and it will begin its journey to Aranmula. The boat is expected to float according to the speed of the current. The sound of the nagaswaram (musical pipe) could be heard from a distance. People from all walks of life, age and religion will assemble on the river bank and they will float lighted lamps on the river welcoming the Thiruvonathoni. It is believed that the palliyodams were built to protect this Thiruvonathoni. So early morning on Thiruvonam day all these palliyodams will accompany the Thiruvonathoni.

Uthrittathi[edit]

It is considered that ‘’Uthrittathi’’ day is the anniversary of the installation of the idol consecrated in the south, by Pandavas. So on that day, there will be a Snake boat regatta in front of the Aranmula temple.

Ashtami Rohini Vallasadya[edit]

A Typical Onam Feast. Onam is a major festival of Kerala.

Another important event is the ‘’Ashtami Rohini Vallasadya’’ (banquet). It is served to the oarsmen of snake boats at the Parthasarthy temple premises and at nearby dining hall and auditorium.

254 vallasadyas were held in 2008 besides the mega feast on Ashtami Rohini. For this mega feast as many as 50,000 people from different parts of the state took part. Rice with 68 side dishes were served at the Sadya on banana leaves including the following side dishes.[2]

Adaprathaman. (Pudding); Aravana payasam. (Pudding made from rice, jaggery and ghee); Aval (flattened rice); Avial (Mixed vegetable curry); Banana chips; Chammanthi powder (Chutney with chillies); Chukku vellum (dried ginger water); Curd; Ellunda (gingelly ball); Fried banana; Ghee; Ginger curry; Holy water from river Pampa; Kaalhen (curry made from curds); Kaalipazham payasam (Pudding made of banana); Kalkandum (Sugar candy); Kadala Prathaman (made of Bengal gram) ; Kychadi (Curry made of rice and gram); Mango curry; Munthiri pachadi (Curry made of grapes); Olen, (mixed curry); Pacchadi (A vegetable curry); Paal payasm (Pudding made of Milk); Pachamoru; Pulisserry (Curry prepared with thick and sour buttermilk); Resam; Red Cheera Thoran (made with a variety of amaranthus); Sambar; Thakara Thoran (Thoran with cassia tora); Unniappam.

Palliyodoms that took part in September 2009[edit]

(Maximum number of men allowed in the boat and total length of the snake boats are given in brackets.)

  1. Arattupuzha. (139, .. )
  2. Ayroor (125, 143’)
  3. Chennithala. (80, 117).
  4. Cherukol Sri Padmanabha Dasa Palliyodom. (110, 99’)
  5. Edanad. (.., 146)
  6. Edappavur. (110, 123)
  7. Edappavur –Peroor (110, 142’)
  8. Edasserimala. (.., 139).
  9. Edasserimala- East.. (85, 139).
  10. Edayaranmula. (130,146’)
  11. Edayaranmula- East. (100, 146’)
  12. Kadapra. (.., ..)
  13. Keezhvanmazhi (110, 139)
  14. Kattoor (80, 140’)
  15. Keezhukara. (135, 142’). Stern Height 20’, the one having the longest
  16. Kodiattukara. (80, ..)
  17. Koipram (100, 139). 84 years old.
  18. Kottathur. (60, ..)
  19. Kozhencherry (100, 133’)
  20. Kuriannoor. (100, 139’)
  21. Lhaha. (95, 140’)
  22. Malakkara (110, 143’)
  23. Mallappuzhassery (.., 99’)
  24. Mangalam. (85, ..)
  25. Melukara (.., 142’)
  26. Maramon. (100, 142)
  27. Mundan Kavu (112, …). One hundred years old.
  28. Muthuvazhi. (65, ..)
  29. Nedumprayar. (.., 142’)
  30. Nellickal, (.., 137’)
  31. Othara (81, 124’)
  32. Poovathur East. (77, 124)
  33. Poovathur West (104, 129’)
  34. Prayaar
  35. Punnamthottam (140, 144’)
  36. Ranni. (.., 121’)
  37. Thekkemuri (112, 137’)
  38. Thottapuzhassery. (85, ..)
  39. Thymaravumkara. (64, 124)
  40. Umayattukara. (110, 120’)
  41. Vanmazhi. (70, 120).
  42. Venpala (.., 125’)
Aranmula regatta (Vallam Kali) is part of the cultural heritage of Kerala state as a whole and Aranmula in particular.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Kerala Companion, Kerala Tourism Dept. Page 40.
  2. ^ Desabhimani, December 30, 2008.

Other renowned boat races in Kerala[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]