During the monsoon season every year, Kerala comes alive with festive fervour for water sporting activities. The colourful snake boat races that take place here are part of a 400-year-old grand tradition that has been thriving at full throttle. These boat races have become so famous that people travel from far and wide to witness this exciting adrenaline-pumping event.
The traditional wooden snake boats used in these races have their history rooted in their use during wars waged by the ruling kingdoms of centuries past. It is believed that the first snake boat was designed in the early 13nth century and their length can be 100 to 120 feet long. Locally known as ‘Chundanvallam’, these canoe-style boats can seat up to a 100 rowers, rowing in sync to throbbing drumbeats.
Every year, there are four main snake boat races and around 15 minor races. They all take place during the months from July to August with the exact dates of the race depending on the position of the moon. The most important snake boat race is the Nehru Trophy boat race which is always held on the second Saturday of August. It is accompanied by a lot of pomp and fanfare with the winning team getting a monetary prize as well as the trophy for a year.
Crowds of people, both young and old throng the banks of the rivers or lakes where the boat race is held and bring the area to an enthusiastic vibrant life. The frenetic, rhythmic rowing of the oarsmen’s is accompanied by the high-spirited enthusiastic crowd’s raucous cheering and loudly-sung traditional fishermen songs. Each team wears its own colours and can be easily recognized by its cheerleaders. These boat races churn the peacefully serene waters of the famous Kerala backwaters and rivers, bringing them to exuberant life for a short period of time every year. This event has to be experienced in person to know the gut-wrenching, heart-thumping excitement that grips you during the races.
However, if you are unable to visit Kerala during the snake boat races, the magnificent Raviz Resorts and Spa hotel in Kollam city arranges these races for its esteemed guests during the off-season too. What’s more, you get to have centre ring position to witness the spectacle as you can watch the event from a boat in the middle of the magnificent Ashtamudi Lake which forms the entrance into Kerala’s most-visited backwaters.
Getting to Kollam is easy too as the nearby airport in Trivandrum is a smooth 75km-ride on the new highways. There are good rail and road connections too.