Snake boat race is one of the most exciting events in the backwaters of Kerala which is part of a backwater culture and lifestyle. The race is not just an event for the backwater people; moreover it is like a festive celebration. It was held on the first week of September, 2013 towards closer dates of Onam, the state festival of Kerala. Thousands of people had gathered on both the banks of the race track to witness the Champakara snake boat race. Just before the race, there were some entertainment show on a platform on top of two cargo boats which were tied together.
The Champakara snake boat race is a smaller one compared to the Nehru trophy boat race in Alleppey, Arranmula boat race and the payyipad boat race. This lively event is at the Champakara backwaters close to Cochin, held on a very narrow channel which is part of the National water highways connecting Error and Champakara.
These race boats are constructed with a very narrow streamlined light weight body, to be fast in the waters. The boats normally tend to sink if the oarsmen do not have balance and a control on the splashing water that gets in to the boat during the race. If the boat sinks during the race, the oarsman need to get it back floating and row the complete water track up to the finishing point to claim their participation.
The event was in the afternoon, it was not very hot and the weather was favourable. The oarsmen were on their rehearsals, rowing the boats on the track which was also part of warming up for the real race. By around 3:30 pm the event was officially inaugurated and all the oarsmen lined up together with their boats for the oath.
After the inauguration all the boats rowed upto the starting point, It’s a 1.5 Kilometer track, where four chundan vallam – the longer boat with both the ends raised from the water level, and around twelve of Veppu Vallams – the smaller boats carrying up to twenty oarsmen row in high spirits. The races were knock outs where two chundans and three veppu vallams race at a time. People were excited with joy and this was kind of an exhilaration for them. Few men who stand on the middle of the Chundans were shouting out slogans and songs of motivation in a rhythm, so that oarsman are in form for the race and row in a rhythm.
Written by Benjamin John