THE UTHIRITTATHI BOAT RACE AT ARANMULA
A visit to the banks of the Pampa river at Aranmula on the day of the Uthirittathi Boat Race, which falls in early September is a pleasurable experience. This boat race brings out all that is true and beautiful in Kerala's culture. The processions of the Palliyodams, or sacred boats, as well as their races are conducted along the channel by the south bank. The best place to enjoy is the north bank where one can move around, mixing with the festive crowd.
The Palliyodams of each village, bedecked with rich ornamentations resembling caparisons on elephant's trunks, is hauled on to Pampa before day break by men who had come after their morning worship. At the auspicious hour, decided in advance after consultation with astrologers, the boat men climb on to the sacred boats and with rhythmic movements of their oars and devotional songs, row the boats to the venue. By noon, over 30 palliyodams will have assembled on the river facing the Parthasarathy Temple at Aranmula. The air rents with the singing of the 'Kuchelavritham Vanchipattu'. The oarsmen move their oarstiming to the rhythm of the song.
The music and the graceful movements of palliyodams on the Pampa can transport the spectator to a dream-like experience. Even the leaves fluttering and ripples of the river seem to be charged with a strange music. The spirit of Onam and the pristine charm and simplicity of the pastoral setting are brought out by this king of regattas.