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The boat races of Kerala, especially those held in Alappuzha are a spectacle famous worldwide. The Champakulam Boat Race is among the oldest and the biggest crowd-pullers, putting on a show of heritage as old as the history of the state. The race is held in snake boats - long and thin boats synonymous with Kerala's cultural identity - on River Pampa. The festival is held on the sacred day of 'moolam', according to the Malayalam month of Midhunam. It is believed that it was on this day that the deity at AmbalappuzhaSree Krishna Temple came home.
The sight of the race is spectacular as massive boats are rowed by multiple frenzied men, each putting in his best effort to keep the boat going as fast he can, in perfect synchronisation with others. The men make merry by humming songs and repeating local folk music to inspire each other.
Legend has it that once the king of Chempakasseri erected a temple as per the instructions of the royal priest. However, just before the opening, he was informed that the idol was inauspicious. Thus, he went over to the Karikulam temple in Kurichi to get the idol of Sri Krishna, and on his way back, made a stop at Champakulam. There, he was amazed to see thousands of boats decked in vibrant colours waiting to escort the idol to the temple. This scene is enacted every year during the boat race.