Onam Celebrations

Onam Boat Race

At Aranmulla, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Thousands of people gather on the banks of river Pamba to observe the exciting Snake boat races. Near about thirty chundan vallams or snake boats participate in the festival. These boats are steered by oarsmen dressed in the white dhotis and turbans.
Along with the race, some traditional boat songs are also sung. The oarsmen splash their oars into the water to the rhythm of the songs.They guide their boats seemingly like a fish on move. A spectacular show of display onthe boat includes a golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the center.Although it's a highly competitive event, the festival is more a visual extravaganza.

Till date on the eve of Thiru Onam the boat Palliodam floats down from Katoormana to the accompaniment of blowing of music and drum beating. Torches are lit and snake boats accompany the procession. This colorful boat festival is held on Uthruttathi or on the fifth day after Thiru Onam. Each of the snake boat belongs to a village along the banks of the river Pamba and is worshipped like a deity. Only men are allowed to board or even touch the boat and that too just barefoot. Every year the boat is oiled mainly with fish oil, coconut shell and carbon mixed with eggs. This black mixture keeps the wood strong and the boat slippery in water. The village carpenter carries out annual repairs lovingly and people take pride in their boat, which represent their village and is named after it.

Custom demands that the Nambudiri Brahmin be at the main rudder oar about 12 feet long. There are four other main oarsmen who control the movement of the boat. And in just few minutes the boat can turn around by the twist of hand by the chief oarsmen. In the olden days the villagers used to sit in the boat in the order of their castes but today the order is changing though a certain pattern can still be distinguished. Everyone from the carpenter, the barber, the goldsmith, the blacksmith as well as the agricultural laborers-all have a place on the boat. And in close harmony, they pull their oars. In Trichur, a vibrant procession with dazzlingly caparisoned elephants is taken out.