Aranmula Boat Race Festival in Pathanamthitta, Kerala

Come Onam season and the festal mood in Kerala knows no bounds. Besides the Onam Sadya, flower carpets, and other traditions, and myths, the boat race also has a predominant place in the state. Coinciding with the season of Onam and monsoon, Aranmula Boat Race Festival is conducted in August-September.

Among the many boat races splashing across the lakes and rivers in Kerala, Aranmula Boat Race reigns supreme. More than the competitive spirit etched in the sport, Aranmula Boat Race brims with rituals and traditions.

Like every preceding year, in this season too the boat race was conducted at Aranmula. Unlike the last two years which were covid affected, this year spectators gathered in hundreds. The banks of the Pampa River were enveloped in excitement and festivity.

The boat race associated with it is part of the Aranmula Temple festival. The participating snake boats, as they are known, are about one hundred feet long. The beautifully decked snake boats will have a crew of around a hundred men to row, sing and hold the decorative items. Interesting myths and fables entwined with all practices and paraphernalia of the boat race.

Thanks a lot to my colleagues @robin.rk.796 and @sumesharanmula1993 for the photos and videos.

Outline of the Boat Race 2022

On 11th September, Swami Nirvinnananda Maharaj lit the lamp to inaugurate the event at Aranmula, Pathanamthitta. The flagging-off ceremony for participating boats was done by Pathanamathitta MP, Anto Antony. However, former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajashekharan flagged off the race events.

From different regions around the Pampa River, forty-nine snake boats participated in the glamours event. Each boat represented its village. The oarsmen on board are selected from the village which owns the respective boat. And they come from far and wide to be part of the annual event. Hence it is a matter of pride and prestige to come out in winning colors at the end of the race.

The day dawned on a cloudy note and spells of rains damped the spirits of all. Fortunately, without much delay, the sun did come out bright and the skies cleared occasionally. The event was held with all the splendor and glory.

The running commentary although in the vernacular language does add life to the overall ambiance.

Highlight

Yes, it is a part of the temple festival and tradition, but it is also a race with winners and prizes. The first prize winning boat goes back to their respective village with Mannam Trophy and INR 50000.

In total forty-nine snake, boats participated in the event.

The boats were divided into two batches: Batch A and Batch B

In the final round, there were four and three boats to compete in both the respective batches.

Batch A Finalists

  • Mallapuzhassery
  • Kuriyannoor
  • Chirayiramb
  • Laka Edayayaranmula

Batch B Finalists

  • Idappavur
  • Pullapram
  • Vanmazhi        

Winners

Unlike other boat races everywhere, the winners of the Aranmula boat race are decided based not only on speed, but also on singing, rowing style, grooming, dress, and discipline. And this explains the thousands of onlookers gathering around to witness the event.

This year the contest was won by Mallapuzhassery’s snake boat in Batch-A. They are winning it for the seventh time. And in Batch-B, Idappavur Palliyodams lifted the cup.

The runners-up were Kuriyannur snake boat and Pulloppram snake boat from batches A and B respectively.

The Nair Service Society M. Sasikumar gave away the prizes to the winners.

Almost a perfect ending

The event would have had a superb finish had it not been for an unfortunate accident where a boat capsized and three people were killed. The boat, representing the Chennithala region was on the way to participate in the event when the tragedy hit them. Following the tragic incident, the region withdrew from the event.

Even when the curtains have come down on the event, the enthusiasm and glitter displayed in this year’s event proved that floods and Covid have not dimmed the spirit of the event. Certainly, we look forward to witnessing promising years ahead.

The crew rowing in synchronization with the rhythm of lead men on board and others controlling the speed and direction of the boat is an enthralling sight you would want to witness next year.

Where? Aranmula, Pathanamathitta, Kerala

When? In August or September every year

Author

Deepu

A Travel enthusiast and Foodie, craving to explore the intricate beauty of nature and its gift of delectable treats. Pens down his thoughts and experiences to present a delightful journey for his readers

One thought on “Aranmula Boat Race Festival in Pathanamthitta, Kerala

  • September 23, 2022 at 2:01 pm
    Permalink

    Didn’t know about the tragedy of Chennithala boat until now. Would love to witness this magnificent race some day.

    Reply

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