Kerala’s snake boat regatta or the Chundan Vallam Kali are a world renowned phenomenon – with hundreds of boats from different villages participating to win a coveted trophy. The excitement and the adrenalin rush that these races bring about is something that is unmatched. The splash of the oars and the synchronised songs of the boatmen – Thithithaara thithithei thithei thakatheitheithom – is a spectacle that stays in the mind for long. While one possibly can not bring home a 100 ft long Chundan Vallam home, it is possible to bring home an equally aesthetic wooden model of the boat.
Kerala’s boat building history
Being a coastal state, Kerala has a history of boat building and the Chundan Vallam boat races are a display of their naval architectural prowess. The original vallam or boat is made as per the ancient Stapathya Veda or boat-building rulebook. Each boat is over 100 ft long and can accomodate more than 100 people. The state’s immense waterways made boat building a necessity as boats were a mode of transport too. In the days of yore, Chundan vallams were used by Kerala’s erstwhile kings as a symbol of power and to wage wars with the neighbouring kingdoms.Today the Chundan Vallam races are a symbol of Kerala’s history and architectural prowess.
The Vellam Kali or Boat Regatta
Kerala has annual boat races that are held between July and September across four places around the Alleppey backwaters. The most important and spectacular of them all is the Nehru Trophy Race that sees the maximum number of boats participating. Other races include the Champakulam, Aranmula and the Kumarakom races.
The Chundan vallam
The Chundan Vallam is something everyone who is from Kerala or has visited Kerala admires for its grandeur. The wooden model of the boat brings to life the Chundan vallam, right in your home. It is an equally perfect, architecturally sound model that brings to life the excitement of Kerala’s Snake Boat races. The traditional chundan vallam holds nearly 60 oarsmen and a team of musicians too; the music and the songs that they sing provide a beat to which the oarsmen row.
All of this is depicted beautifully in the rosewood models that Kerala’s talented artisans create. The models are carved from rosewood by hand and polished to give it the shining finish. Some miniatures also come encrusted with brass elements to give it a more elegant finish. While some models come with carved figurines of oarsmen seated inside, others are just hollow miniature boats.
The miniature Chundan Vallams make for great souvenirs from the state, excellent display pieces or even centerpieces for tables at home. A chundan vallam brings home the spectacular event from Kerala’s culture.