Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is the oldest and most popular boat race in Kerala held at the Pampa River at Champakulam near Alappuzha on Moolam day in the Malayalam month of Midhunam (June to July) every year.

It is the first race during the monsoon season and marks the day when the idol of Lord Krishna was brought by boat to be placed at Sri Krishna Temple, Ambalapuzha.

It is said that the Raja of Chempakasseri, Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan, built a temple at Ambalappuzha, as suggested by the royal astrologers, but just before the installation of the deity (Lord Krishna), he was informed that the idol was not auspicious.

Because it was imperative for the temple to house an idol immediately, the priests began to desperately look for a replacement and eventually found a more suitable one at the Karinkulam temple in Kurichi.

It was believed that this idol was given to Arjuna by Krishna himself and thereby was considered to be very auspicious. The dignitaries along with the priests immediately set out to get the idol.

After getting the idol from Karikulam temple, the Raja's men set forth by boat for the return journey. While returning to Ambalappuzha, night had set in and, as instructed by the Raja, they took shelter at a Christian household, the home of Mappilassery Itty Thommen, in the village of Champakulam.

Itty Thommen was a loyal subject and a confidant of the king and received the men and the idol with great honour. Pujas were offered to the deity and Itty Thommen and his men volunteered to travel with the Raja's men to Ambalapuzha where the idol was to be consecrated and installed.

The next day, the people of Champakulam and adjoining areas, as well as the priests and laity of the Champakulam Kalloorkadu Church honoured the Raja and the idol. Boats from the entire region came to escort the idol back to the temple in a traditional procession across the lake.

These events took place in 1545 A.D. The Raja, pleased with the love and affection shown to him by his Christian subjects, declared that henceforth, to commemorate these events. Thus began the 'Champakulam snake-boat race' and related functions, which continue to this very day.

A special lamp was given by Itty to be kept in the holy place of Mappilassery and the lamp is kept burning even today as an eternal flame. With no religious barriers, the poojas are carried out at their place every year.

Before the boat race starts, the temple priests will enter the prayer room at the Mappilassery house and give acknowledgment and reverence the lamp which is also known as "Vazhakoombu Vilakku" along with other Christian iconic items such as the cross and a statue of Jesus and Mary.

It is only after this ritual that the boat race will begin. With a tradition of almost 500 years, this wonderful tradition is still carried on uninterrupted and unchallenged.

The festivities include spectacular water floats, decorated boats, vanchipattu which is the song of the oarsmen and the popular Chundan Vallam race. Before the boat race begins, colourful boats carrying groups of performing artists displaying their skills in honour of Lord Krishna. The race is then held in various categories of boats cheered on by the spectators who are delighted to be part of an ancient and peaceful ritual.

Source: Tech Travel Eat

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