Onam Boat Race, also known as Vallam Kali

Onam Boat Race, also known as Vallam Kali, is a traditional and exhilarating event that takes place during the Onam festival in the state of Kerala, India. The boat race is an iconic and competitive water sport held on the serene and picturesque backwaters of Kerala, attracting thousands of spectators and participants from all over the world.

onam boat race known as vallamkali

Kerala Backwaters: Kerala is blessed with an intricate network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and lagoons that collectively form the backwaters of the state.


onam boat race known as vallamkali

The backwaters are a unique ecosystem and a vital part of Kerala's cultural heritage. They serve as a means of transportation, irrigation, and fishing for the local communities, while also providing a scenic and tranquil environment that draws tourists seeking relaxation and natural beauty. The boat races are primarily conducted in the backwater regions of Kuttanad, Alappuzha, and Kottayam, where the waterways offer ample space for the massive snake boats (Chundan Vallam) to race.


Boat Race - Vallam Kali: The Vallam Kali, or boat race, is deeply rooted in Kerala's history and culture, dating back to ancient times. It is believed that the boat races originated as a form of training for the state's naval forces and eventually evolved into a festive and competitive sport. Today, these races have become an integral part of Kerala's tradition and an essential component of the Onam celebrations.


The main attraction of the boat race is the "Chundan Vallam" or snake boat, which is a long canoe-style boat that can measure up to 100 feet in length and can accommodate more than a hundred oarsmen. The boat gets its name "snake boat" due to its long and sleek design that resembles a snake gliding through the water.


The boat races are highly organized and involve intense training and preparation by each participating team. Months before the festival, the boat crews start practicing, and they take immense pride in representing their respective villages in the competition.


On the day of the boat race, the backwaters are filled with excitement and festivity. Thousands of spectators line the banks of the waterways to cheer for their favorite teams. The atmosphere is charged with enthusiasm, and traditional music and drum performances add to the energy of the event.


The races are conducted in different categories based on the size and design of the boats. Apart from the Chundan Vallams, there are smaller boats like the Churulan Vallam, Odi Vallam, and Veppu Vallam, each with its unique design and significance.


The most prestigious and thrilling boat race is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held annually on the second Saturday of August, in Alappuzha. Named after India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who visited Kerala in 1952 and donated a silver trophy for the winning team, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race attracts the largest crowds and receives extensive media coverage.


The boat races exemplify the spirit of unity, teamwork, and competition among the people of Kerala. It is a showcase of the state's rich cultural heritage and a way for communities to celebrate their history and traditions. The Onam Boat Race continues to be a major tourist attraction and a symbol of Kerala's vibrant and diverse cultural identity.