The Game of Boats – Why You Need To Visit The Races in Kerala

Vallam Palli , which translated in English means ‘boat game’. It is the traditional boat races happening in and around the backwaters of Alappuzha (Alleppey) in Kerala, India. A race with several kinds of paddled longboats encompasses the rich traditions of Kerala be it the race, the folk songs and the culture.

The races mainly occur during Onam, which is the harvest season. The dates depend on the Malyalam calendar.

Source : Abraham Jacob

The boat races are  looked forward to from the youngest to the elders. The sportsmen ship of the boat racers and their oars beating against the wave , the crowd cheering and a cacophony of  the thumping beats of the traditional percussion ,harmonious voices singing the folklore  songs and the constant shutters of the camera pulls you in the eccentric cultural phenomenon fueled by adrenaline that you surely want to be a part of.

There are various types of boats such as Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam, Vadakkanody Vallam and Kochu Vallam , the most famous one being  Chundan Vallams (Snake Boat)

Here are few of the popular races :

Champakkulam Boat Race

Champakkulam Boat Race

This boat race is one of the oldest sports festival which roughly started around 16th century. It is held in the river of Pamba. This boat race marks the beginning of boat race season in Kerala. It is grand and draws a huge crowd. This event also has several water floats, boats decorated with colourful ornaments and several artists performing. The event occurs on the day of Moolam according to the Malayalam calendar.

Date : 15th July, 2019
Venue : Champakulam ,Alappuzha

Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race

Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race
Source : Iris Holidays

This is the most popular race in Allapuzha. It first started in the year  1952.It gets its name is due to the visit of Pandit Nehru for the first race where entranced by the sight, he jumped into a snake boat himself and later that year, he donated a silver trophy hence the name. The 100 ft long boats compete against each other for the trophy. Each boat has 90-110 oarsmen. It draws a huge crowd. It happens every year on the second Saturday of August.

 The Snake boat race which has a legacy of 400 years and a historical beginning.  The kings of Alleppey and surrounded were at war with each other. The king who suffered heavy loss, asked his best carpenter to build him a boat to win the war. The carpenter built him the snake boat and won the war. 400 years later, it’s the most beloved traditional race.

Date : 10th August, 2019
Venue : Punnamda, Alleppey

Payippad Boat Race

Payippad Boat Race
Source : Indian Holidays Pvt Ltd.

This event is a 3 day affair. The race is a tribute to two of the local deities. The event which is celebrated now started with a vision by the locals that stated an idol would be found in the Kayamkulam river. Following the vision, inside a whirlpool in the river, they found the idol. They returned back to the land with idol celebrating with decorated boats and chants.  The race observes the installation of the idol at the Subramany Swamy Temple. It has the largest participators for the race.

Date : 13th September, 2019
Venue : Payippad backwaters ,Alappuzha

The folk songs sung at the boats and the festivals are iconic and truly invoke the true spirit of the activities. Here’s one to prepare yourself with the festivities

This song was made as a theme song for the Snake Boat Race 2018

While you’re there, you can also visit the backwaters, stay in the houseboats, visit the monsoon spots in Kerala such as Wayanad , Munnar,etc. This is one trip you really don’t want to miss

Be sure to check the dates of the festivities at the Kerala Tourism website.