14 Nov 2012

The amazing boat race in Aranmula

Thiruvananthapuram, or Trivandrum, is the capital of God’s own country, Kerala. Mahatma Gandhi called this city the “Evergreen City of India” which you can believe when you see the beautiful expanse of lush green everywhere.

While the city is a major hub for educational institutions, IT centres, government organizations and offices, one of the famous events that people come to watch takes place about 130 km from Thiruvananthapuram. This event is the amazing boat race in Aranmula and happens during the Onam festival. The event itself is one of the oldest river boat festivals of Kerala. Celebrating the festival thus began sometime in the 1970s and it is conducted at a famous temple on the banks of the river Pampa that’s dedicated to Sri Krishna and Arjuna. The temple is believed to be about 1700 years old.
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 Aranmula Boat Race (Photo Courtesy: WikiMedia Commons)
The race involves over 40 long boats built of wood, each a 100 to 138 feet in length, the rear section of the boat being up to 20 feet tall. More commonly called snake boats, they are decorated with flowers and colourful cloth for the event. The boats typically have one ornamental umbrella in the centre, and a golden lace in the front of the boat, with a flag. They can hold anywhere between 64 and 128 oarsmen, sitting in two rows on either edge of the boat. Besides this, 25 men sit or stand in the middle, to sing, some carrying colourful umbrellas. Traditionally, only men are allowed on these boats. All men are dressed in white mundus and turbans. The boats begin to row out in pairs into the river Pampa, among loud song and cheer, with about a thousand spectators watching. Each boat has singers singing and clapping loudly, and even dancing without upsetting the boat until the end of the race.

It’s a fabulous sight to watch, and is perfect for all those camera buffs as an event where you can take pictures and videos. Plan your trip in advance, book a flight to Thiruvananthapuram, take a train or a bus to Aranmula and enjoy this festival in person.

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