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Payippad Boat Race

Payippad boat race is perhaps the oldest of its kinds in the state of Kerala. Held in the month of Chingam in Malayalam calendar, the race marks the festival in relation to the Subramanayam Swamy temple in Haripad. There are historical anecdotes associated with the installation of the idols in the temple. Rivers Pampa and Achalkoil, converge near Payippad village. And on the banks of Payipad River, which is a tributary of Achalkoil River, the festival is held for 3 days of the Chingam month of Onam. This period coincides with the English months of August. Uniqueness of this boat race is that the races are held continuously for 3 days, where snake shaped boats race with each other. During this period, a number of festivities go on simultaneously in the village, along the river banks. During the festival of Payippad boat race, there are many boats belonging to different karas or communities and even individuals from the nearby villages, which participate in harmony and peace, irrespective of caste, religion and political afflictions. Kerala tourism and the government patronises these boat races and after the Nehru trophy boat race, this is the biggest in number of participants in a boat race in Kerala.


Legends are in plenty about the exact origin of this Payippad boat race, but one of these is particularly believed by most people to be the reason for the conduct of the boat race in this sleepy village of Payippad. It is said that when people in the neighbouring karas and villages decided to set up the Ayappan temple in Haripad, heads of four major karas had visions in their dreams simultaneously, about the existence of a four armed idol of the god in the river of Kayamkulam river. Hence, people arrived in boats along with best swimmers and divers to search for that particular idol. As it became difficult to find the idol in such a large river, they saw some flower in the midst of a whirlpool in the river, under which the idol was finally found. Then, putting the idol on the boat, they arrived in the place where the idol was supposed to be place, amidst lots of celebrations and festivities. This ritual is being followed till date, but the boat races have been made an integral part of such commemorations of the setting up of the idol.


Beautifully decorated Chundanvalloms or snake boats are the highlights of the Payippad boat race, during which the fast moving ergonomically designed snake boats are oared along the river in competition with the rituals. Passing along the pristine water, these snake boats provide an exotic and splendid scenery and the bystanders, crowding the banks with shouts and singing are further adding to the scenario of paegentry. Boats are usually of 100 feet length, which can accommodate about 100 oarsmen, who are supposed to wear a particular dress. The boat race celebrations go on for 3 days, which is not seen with any other kind of racing in Kerala. To a large extent, the boat race is attributed to be linked with establishment of the idol of the Sree Subramanyam Swamy in Haripad. According to the legendary episode of setting up the idol in this temple, the Payippad Jalotsavam is held every year during onam festivals.

Getting There

The village of Payippad is almost a small and sleepy village, comprising of some karas and has some neighbouring villages, all of which get lighted up and are in a festive mood during the Payippad boat race. This village is about 25 kms from Alapphuza, close to the village of Haripad, where Sree Subramayam Swamy temple is located. Haripad has the nearest railway station to the location of the boat race at a distance of 5 kms. Cochin International Airport is about 85 kms from Alapphuza in Kerala.

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