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Aranmula and the fascinating Vallamkali Snake-Boat Race

If there is one imperishable memory to be brought back from a trip to Kerala it is the fascinating Aranmula regatta. The snake-boats glide gracefully and majestically along the River Pampa and the hypnotic chanting of the oarsmen will echo in your mind like a happy refrain long after the race is over.

The Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali or snake-boat race is one of the year's biggest festivities in the village of Aranmula and one of the oldest traditional races in Kerala. It is linked to the Parthasarathy temple and takes place every year on Uthrattathy day in the month of Chingam in the Malayalam calendar (August-September), four days after Thiruvonam (the Onam festival).

People of all social classes and religions living in and around Aranmula get involved in the Vallamkali. It is organised by the Seva Sangam Palliyodam, an organisation made up of two members from each of the 48 villages or karas that possess a snake-boat.

The legend of Aranmula

Legend has it that the Aranmula race commemorates Arjuna's crossing of the Pampa River.

After a long period of penitence, Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers (who fought and won in the legendary Kurukshetra War) came back to the town of his birth carrying an idol of Lord Krishna.

When he reached the north bank of the Pampa the river was in flood and he could not cross. A passing villager offered to take him across in a makeshift boat. Reaching the far shore, Arjuna put down the statue in the place where the Parthasarathy temple now stands.

To honour the service rendered to Arjuna by a local man, boat races are held on the river just opposite the Krishna temple.


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