Aranmula boat race festival is the oldest boat race in Kerala. It is held at Aranmula in Southern Kerala during Onam.
Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala.
It is celebrated as per Malayalam calendar, sometime during August / September.
This boat race is also called Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali (boat race) since it falls on the Uthrattathi day as per local calendar.
Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Sree Krishna. It is included among 180 Divya Desams, the holiest shrines that worship Lord Vishnu.
The temple is located at the bank of Pampa River. Boat race happens near to the temple and is witnessed by tens of thousands of people. It happens during the second day of two days of celebrations
One of the major rituals is the arrival of Thiruvanthony (the boat with the holy offerings. During the first day, Thiruvanthoni starts from the village of Kattoor at about 6 PM with the ingredients to prepare a meal. The boat has a light burning in it. It is accompanied by snake boats locally called as Palliyodams. They reach the temple by 4 AM to be received by a gathering of thousands of people.
The snake boat race is the much anticipated, major event of the second day. Being part of temple festival, it is a religious event. However it a festival of the land celebrated by people from all backgrounds.
About 40 snake boats participate in the race. Each boat is about 100 ft long, has 4 helmsmen, 100 rowers and 25 singers. Boats represent different villages. All the boats assembling before the temple is a great sight, not to mention the race.
In this race, it is not about who finish first. Boats keep up with each other so that they all reach the finishing point at the same time. Still there is plenty of excitement, songs, cheering and fun during Aranmula boat race festival.