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Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Kerala

It’s been around 500 years since the Champakulam Boat Race first began. Steeped in legends, the snake boat race has the distinction of being the most ancient in Kerala’s boat racing history. Even today the boat race (referred to as ‘vallam kali’ in Malayalam) is celebrated with all exuberance, reflecting the ever presence richness of Kerala’s cultural heritage and tradition. Though there are numerous boat races are organized in the state of Kerala, each one of them has its own unique historical significance. Whether a cultural enthusiast, a history buff or a holidaymaker, Kerala’s Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is a must see for all. Both the young and the young at heart from all across Kerala and neighbouring places excitedly await the festive occasion every year and to be a part of the occasion which also represents the bond of togetherness among people.

Mythological Background
Legend has it that on being counseled by the royal astrologers, Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan (Raja of Chempakasseri) decided to construct a temple at Ambalappuzha. Later, when time came for the setting up of the Lord Krishna’s idol, he was told that the idol was inauspicious. Since it was an urgent requirement to replace the idol, royal priests advised the king to get back Lord Krishna’s idol installed at the Karikulam Temple in Kurichi. The king followed the advise and ordered his men to escort back the idol to the Ambalappuzha Temple.

On their return journey to Ambalappuzha, the king’s men halted to spend the night at a Christian household which belonged to Mappilassery Itty Thommen. The house was situated in the village of Champakulam. The men obeyed as they were instructed by the king. Both the king’s men and Lord Krishna’s idol were given a warm welcome at Itty Thommen’s house. By the time the king and his men arrived at Mappilassery, a huge congregation of people had joined in.

On their journey back, people paid tribute to both the king and Lord Krishna’s idol. Even the priests participated in this honorary celebration. The Champakulam Moolam Boat Race of Kerala commemorates the very event.

Time and Venue of the year
The Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is organized annually on the Moolam day during the Malayalam month of Midhunam. The whole expanse of the Pampa River comes to life during the Champakulam Boat Race. The time of the boat race also coincides with the day of the deity installation at the Ambalappuzha Temple.

Did you know?
At the Ambalappuzha temple continuously burns a lamp to commemorate the lighting up of the lamp that was first lit here centuries ago. Continuing the tradition, priests gather at the Ambalappuzha Temple every year on the Moolam Day, the same day when the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is organized. A special ritual, known as Moolakazcha, is observed by the priests. Next, the lamp in the prayer room is lit. It is interesting to note that the Cross symbol and the statues of Jesus and Mary occupy a venerated place in the prayer room. It is only after the ritual has been performed, the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race actually kicks off.