ALAPPUZHA: Heralding the new season, the Champakulam Boat Race will begin on Mon-day on the River Pampa.
Apart from the teams of the police and civil servants will be the main attraction in the battle of 120-140-feet-long snake boats crewed by 120 oarsmen. Today, around two dozen boat races are held across the state. On Aug-ust 10, Nehru Trophy Boat Race (NTBR) will open the maiden Champions Boat League (CBL).
The Champakulam boat race, the oldest regatta in the state is being held on the Moolam star in Mithunam since 1545. It is also considered the harbinger of Onam festival.
Joseph Elamkulam, a boat race commentator, says preparations have already begun. Snake boats are smeared with sardine oil for smooth passage, the best oarsmen selected and practice sessions got underway under the supervision of the seniormost.
Around 150 oarsmen, who would represent the village, will observe strict abstinence and celibacy till the oars each them. Each ward and wealthy individuals take their turn to feed them at mass feasts on the river banks.
Even in the days of untouchability, according to him, caste Hindus, Scheduled Castes, Christians and Muslims sit in the same row for the feast symbolising communal amity. The Church has a traditional role in the celebrations, though the festival is associated with a temple legend.
With the arrival of CBL, boat races have become money-spinning, bringing in professionalism and enthusiasm.
Traditionally, they are Alappuzha, Kollam and Kottayam centred. It's now spread to other districts like Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur.
But CBL is limited to Kollam, Kottayam, Alapp-uzha, Ernakulam, Thriss-ur and Malappuram.
But Vinod Karichal, a boat race buff, is sceptical.
“The flow of money will be un-matching, and it will become an affair of corporate companies instead of local karas (villages),” he says.
“All we want to tell the authorities is that the reputation and purpose of Nehru Trophy and traditional boat races must be intact.”...