Kerala, which has been promoted over the past few years as ‘God’s Own Country’, besides being well-known for its soul rejuvenating greenery, culture and hospitality, is also widely popular for its annual snake boat race known as Champakulam Moolam
WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI
ONE of the most auspicious and exciting festivals of Kerala, the Champakulam Moolam is held in Pampa on the day of the ‘moolam’, which is followed in accordance with the Malayalam month of Midhunam.
Although Kerala takes pleasure in hosting a number of native boat races in the harvest season, the Champakulam Moolam is the first race of the season. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism (star or Nakshathra).
It holds much historic significance passed on to the locals through centuries. The traditional annual boat race of Kerala begins in late June and early July at Champakulam.
It is considered to be especially sacred as the deity at the Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna temple was installed on this day.
According to a famous legend, Raja Devanarayanan of Chempakasseri built a temple at Ambalappuzha, as suggested by the royal astrologers, but just before the installation of the idol of Lord Krishna, he was informed that it was not auspicious.
Hence, it became necessary to erect a suitable idol immediately. Luckily, the priests were aware of another idol which was placed at the Karinkulam temple in Kurichi.
Moreover, this idol was believed to have been given to Arjuna by Lord Krishna himself, and was therefore considered to be sacred. After getting the idol from Karinkulam temple, the Raja’s men set forth by boat for the return journey.
They took shelter at night in the village of Champakulam where the host and his family showed great hospitality to the king and his men. The idol was duly installed the next morning where boats from the entire region assembled to escort it in a colorful, ceremonial procession through the lake to the temple.
The king was thoroughly pleased with the affection shown to him by his subjects. He declared that a great water carnival would be held at Champakulam every year and thus, began the Champakulam snake boat race and related events, which continue to this day.
On this day, the temple delegates enter the prayer room, where along with the Christian icons (the king was hosted by a respectable and kind Christian family at Champakulam) like the cross and statues of Jesus and Mary, the lamp, known as the Vazhakoombu Vilakku is given a place of prominence.
Exuberant boat procession
The temple priests then light the lamp and are then treated to a huge feast by the family. It is only after all these ceremonies that the famous Champakulam snake boat race commences. There is an exuberant procession of boats decorated with bright colored parasols and performances which greet the spectator before the race.
Massive boats dawn over the waters and ancient boat songs are hummed making it an exhilarating experience. This is the event that kicks off the boat racing fiesta, which takes over Kerala for the next few months.
This year, the spectacular festival was expected to start on June 28 and the conviviality is inevitable in the state.