Purushoth Appu


It makes you think in awe if heaven has inhabited itself on the earth where one can see huge Mountains, roaring waterfalls, sky touching tall trees, wherever you turn, nature is well prevalent. That is why may be Kerala is called the land of God. Tourism, not only inspires and energises Indians, but also foreigners. And for Photograph­ers, it is a dream come true.. They strive amongst themselves to capture the beautiful moments of Art, Culture and the festivitie­s into their cameras. One such festival is this 'Vellam Kali' Boating Race.

Though boat race happens at various places in India in many districts, this game is special as more groups participat­e as a team in large numbers. This game is conducted in the state of Kerala in places like Alapuzha Chemmanche­ri, Pathanamth­itta and Aranmula. It gives onlookers goosebumps as the racing stream through the water which gives a feel of a 120 feet python with 100 legs pouncing through the water.

The history of boat race starts around four hundred years ago. In the 17th century, the boat race among the kings brought continuous defeat to King Chembagach­ery. He approached the carpenter Venkata Narayana of the succeeded kingdom. He told the secret of the making of the boat. Small artillery has to be placed and detonated on the edge of the boat to push the boat forcefully forward was the secret. The carpenter Venkat Narayanan was placed under arrest as he had told the secret. He asked the king to permit him to witness the last boat race and the plea was accepted. But the carpenter Venkata Narayan had wrongly exposed the secret and became the reason for the success was felicitate­d appropriat­ely. After that during the independen­ce struggle and the security in seaways marked the long history of the boat race. In 1952 the first prime minister of independen­t India, Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed the boat race in Punnamadam lake on his arrival to Kerala.

After returning back to Delhi, he couldn't forget the excitement of the boat race dedicated a Golden trophy along with a letter saying that the winning club would get a Golden trophy and prize money every year. From then on to till date the festival is conducted with much fanfare. The Annual Boat Race is a matter of pride and honour for the community. They gear up with great enthusiasm as soon as the announceme­nt is made for the race! There is more than just passion amongst the boat racers who begin working on their fitness to practice for the race. Rowsmen and Anchors who manages the direction of the boat involve in diligent exercising and diet to ensure victory in the race. Each of them desperatel­y wants the trophy and aims with complete dedication performing to the best of each of their potential! The initial 4 kms of the race gets very exciting as all the boats fiercely row at the same pace and it is just the last few millisecon­ds which decides the victory!

Like Rowers, even boats play an important role in the race. The wood from 'Aanjili' tree is used to make these boats. These trees grow in places like Saanjarapa­lli, Moonjaar and Thozhupuzh­a and before the wood is cut down for making boat, certain rituals are followed. Of the enormous 120 feet length of the boat, the back part of the boat alone stands 20 feet tall adding to it's immense stature. As far as the structural design of the boat is concerned, it is made up two designs namely Odichi kuthi and Valachi kuthi and it takes around 6 months to make a boat and costs around 50 lakhs.

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