The Aaranmula Boat Race is staged each year in the scenic village of Aaranmula in August/ September. This river carnival is part of the Aaranmula Temple festival. Masses throng the shores of the River Pamba to watch an imposing cluster of snake boats called 'Palliyodams'. Aranmula Uthrittathi Vallomkali is conducted in the Pamba River in front of Sri Parthasarathi Temple. Though, large snake boats take part in this festival they do not race with each other. Instead, they row in union, to the accompaniment of songs and reach their destination together because Lord Krishna is believed to be present in each boat. Since 1971 this procession has taken the present form of a race conducted by the Palliyoda Seva Sangh. Each boat, nearly 100 feet long, is a remarkable feat of craftsmanship, with the stem curved to resemble the hood of a snake and a tampering bow. Festooned with silk and gold spangled umbrellas, the boats are manned by a crew of more than 100 men.
The trophy is a replica of a snake-boat in silver, placed on wooden abacus on which the following words of Panditji are inscribed above his signature.
Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala. Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala.
Onam Games exhibits bravado of the machos in Kerala in a terrific manner.
Onakalikal is a collective name for the numerous games played on the occasion of Onam. After a sumptuous Onasadhya meal, it's the ideal time to indulge in a little bit of merriment and sports and energetic people of Kerala make the most of it.
There are various kind of games devised for the occasion for people with different temperaments. While the old and the sober ones go in for indoor games like chess (Chathurangam), cards and dice, the young and energetic love to participate in the outdoor and robust games. These games are traditional ones and have only minor regional variation from what we see in other parts of the country.
Onakalikal also include combats, which are essentially a show of strength and physical might of the people of Kerala. Kayyankali and Attakalam are two such combats. Of the two, Kayyankali is more violent where people fight one to one with their fists.
For those who love shooting, there is a game of archery too, called Ambeyyal. It is an interesting event where bamboo bows and blunted arrows are used. People divide themselves into two teams and try to deprive each other of their stock of arrows. Though not meant to be violent, many a player get wounded in this.
The other two interesting games played on the occasion are a ball game called Talappanthukali and a variation of Kabaddi locally called Kutukutu.
The Ball Game
Talappanthukali is one of the major out-door games played on the occasion of Onam. The game is essentially a ball game and extremely popular one.
Preparing the Ball
There is a unique way in which the ball is prepared for Pantukali. Layers and layers of dried up plantain are wrapped in the shape of a ball. Some pebbles are also kept inside to give weight. Prepared mass is then covered with plantain fiber or coconut fiber and made into the size of a tennis ball.
To play this unique kind of foot-ball, players divide themselves into two groups. Talappanthukali is played in an open area. Natta (a stick) is planted at one end of ground and a line or boundary is drawn at the other end to mark the space beyond which the ball should not be thrown.
Kayyankali is a combat and an extremely violent one. Men of strength play it on the occasion of Onam. To play Kayyankali men fight one-to-one without using any weapon and the stronger man wins.
What differentiates Kayyankali from other type of combat called 'Attakamal' is that Kayyankali is played singly while Attakamal is played in batches and is relatively less dangerous.
A Game of Strength
An ancient style game, Kayyankali rewards strength and power. The game is a risky one even though use of any weapon or horses is strictly forbidden. Violence, blood and at times even death is part of a game in Kayyankali.
To play Kayyankali players divide themselves into two equal teams. Effort is made to keep the players of two teams well matched so that the competition is made stiff and challenging for each other. Spectators who assemble in large numbers to watch the ruthless match stand on both sides of the battle ground.
The Deadly Combat
When all preparations have been made, a player from one team goes upto middle of the field and pose a challenge to the opposite party. There is also a strategy involved in the way the player moves upto the field. Combatant moves in taking certain measured steps, in accordance with the technology he wishes to adopt. His match from the opposite team takes up the challenge and comes forward taking the same measured steps.
What follows is a deadly combat. Combatants as a rule are allowed to use only their fists for attack. Left elbow is used as a shield for the attack while right arm is used as a weapon for attack. A series of attacks and counter attacks take place amidst cheering from fans of both the teams.
Combat is considered to be good and interesting when a player manages to shield himself from all the attacks made by the other player. Fall of the opponent on the ground indicates a victory for the other player. It needs great expertise to play the game as novice and amateur player at times attack the vital organs of the body which even leads to the death of a player.
The game continues similarly with other players of the team amidst continuous applause from the spectators. The victorious team is rewarded with a big prize at the end of the game.
Archery or Ambeyyal as it is popularly called in Kerala, is one of the many games played on the occasion of Onam. The game tests the skill and patience of a player and is played by men.
Kutukutu is a popular and entertaing game played during the festival of Onam. It is a fun game and very much like the popular game of Kabaddi played in several parts of India. Though simple in nature, the game is an extremely challenging one as it tests strength, speed, tact and the power of lungs of a player.