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The Aranmula Boat Race the oldest river boat fiesta in Kerala, the south western State of India is held during Onam (August-September). It takes place at Aranmula, near a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The snake boats move in pairs to the rhythm of full-throated singing and shouting watched by an exciting crowd. [1] In 1972, snake boat races were also added to the program of the festival. Thousands of people gather on the banks of the river Pampa to watch the snake boat races. In 2009 forty one snake boats or chundan vallams had participated in the festival. The oarsmen sing traditional boat songs and wear white mundu and turbans. The golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the center make it a show of pageantry too.

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Aaranmula Boat Race
more… Fairs & Festivals
Major Attractions

Center of Activity : Cochin Backwaters

Time of Celebration : Last week of December

Main Attraction : Boat race

Indira Gandhi Boat Race happens to be very colorful water sport-cum-festival held every year. It is organized during the last week of December in the backwaters of the Cochin city of Kerala. Infact, the tradition of holding boat races is not just confined to Kochi. It is popular throughout Kerala and different boat race competitions like the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali, Payippad Jalotsavam and Kumarakom Boat Race are held here.

These boat races are packed with so much energy that tourists and media crew from all over the country come to view them. The boats used in the competition are stream lined in shape to make them run faster. However, the ones used in the Indira Gandhi Boat Race are called the Vallam Kali. The term Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means 'Boat Game' in Malayalam. Apart from being a tradition, the Indira Gandhi Boat Race festival is also conducted to boost tourism in the state of Kerala.

The trophy of this race was instituted in memory of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India. What makes the race so unique is the sportive spirit of the participants. Around 150 oarsmen, each of them representing a different village, vow to observe strict rules during the game. Feeding them during practice sessions and on the festival day is the responsibility of the villagers or well-to-do people who, often, vouch to bear the entire expenses. The preparations for the Indira Gandhi Boat Race begin several weeks in advance.

The snake boats are smeared with sardine oil for a smooth passage through the water. Usually, a snake boat is manned by four helmsmen, 25 singers and 100 to 125 oarsmen, who row in unison to the fast rhythm of the Vanchipattu or the song of the boatman. Thousands of people crowd along the waters to cheer the participants of the boat race. Most of the races organized in Kerala have interesting legends behind how they originated.

Indira Gandhi Boat Race

Athachamayam marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala. It is an occasion to witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala.

Conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (Leo), the event held at the historical town of Thripunithura is a celebration of a legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi. In olden days it was customary for the king to travel with his entire entourage to the Thripunithura fort. This was also the occasion for his subjects to greet the king and see him at close quarters. The procession, now without the king, still retains its majestic charm, and is conducted in a spectacular manner.

Caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, musical ensembles etc form part of the procession.

Onam is the most popular festival of the Malayalees and can be traced to the primitive harvest festival and also to the myth regarding King Mahabali - the benevolent asura ruler who brought peace and prosperity to his country.


Onam, the harvest festival is the most popular festival of Kerala. A festival that celebrates a happy blend of myth and reality, Onam is part of the cultural repertoire of every Malayalee.

It brings back nostalgic memories, carried on the wings of folklore, of a bygone Utopian era of prosperity, equality and righteousness, under the golden reign of Mahabali.

Year after year, for centuries, the people of Kerala, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, join together to welcome back their vanquished king.

The ten-day Onam festival falls in August-September, coinciding with the beginning of the harvest season.


Center of Activity: Fort Kochi

Time of Celebration: Last week of December

Main Attraction: A massive procession of caparisoned elephants, games and partying

If there is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year, then it's the Cochin Carnival held in the last week of December. Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala.

Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. Dressed up in fancy dresses, everyone, children in particular, is seen bursting with enthusiasm. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year's Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity.

Color white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the Kochi Carnival. All establishments in the city don white paper buntings. The available space on the streets host impromptu competitions and multi-faceted celebrations. Kalam Vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, bicycle race, swimming in the sea, beach volleyball are some of the programs that take place during the Cochin Carnival at Fort Kochi. The festivities and revelries continue till midnight of December 31st with fireworks marking the grand finale.

Cochin Carnival

Place and Community

Sabarimala is a famous pilgrimage destination in Kerala. His festival is attended by thousands of people from all across the world.


Sabarimala festival is celebrated in the months of November-January.


Sabarimala temple is located on the top of the hills of the Western Ghats. The holy shrine in Sabarimala is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. Thousands of devotees visit Sabarimala during the months of November-January when the main festivaltakes place.

The devotees who visit the temple during the festival walkbarefoot through the uneven road to reach the temple. Before taking the trip the devotees fast and surrender themselves to the will of God for 40 days. They do not drink or smoke, eat selected food, sleep on the floor and stay away from women and family during this period. Irrespective of caste and creed they wear black dhotis and carry offerings like coconut filled with ghee, camphor and rice.

People take a dip in the river on their way to the temple. It is believed that people who take a dip in the holy waters of the river are cleansed of all sins. People also visit theMuslim God on their way to Sabarimala who is believed to be a close friend of Lord Ayyappa. People start chanting the Lord’s name on witnessing a glowing flame on the hillopposite the temple. Mandala Pooja festival is an important part of Sabarimala festival. It begins 41 days before Makar Sankranti and continues for 41 days. Makara Villaku PoojaFestival is the most important part of the festival and lasts for seven days.

Sabarimala Temple Festival

Jagannatha Festival is a colourful eight-day festival, which is held in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February/ March) at the Jagannatha Temple at Madathiparambu, near Thalassery in Kannur.

The idol of Lord Siva, the presiding deity was installed here by the famous social reformer and philosopher, Sree Narayana Guru on 13th February, 1908.

The seventh day of the festival is the most auspicious.

The event highlights religious conferences participated by eminent scholars and social reformers, elephant processions, fireworks display and cultural programmes.

Jagannatha Festival
Fairs & Festivals
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