Tuesday, Sep 09, 2003
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By George Jacob
This year, the Sree Narayana boat race at Kottathodu, scheduled on Wednesday, marks its centenary. The Thazhathangadi boat race, one of the oldest in the State, though had lost its splendour, has regained its old glory during the past few years. The competition will be held on Friday. The most important among the three is the `Ooruchutti Vallamkali' being held on Uthrittathi day (Saturday). Interestingly, this is not a competition, but one of the oldest ritualistic traditions of the Kumaranallore Devi Temple.
The Sree Narayana boat race falls on the day of Chathayam and marks the arrival of Sree Narayana Guru to Kumarakom from Alappuzha. The event took place in 1903. While Guru's teachings had unleashed a social awakening in the areas occupied by the lower castes and the untouchables, Kumarakom, though had a sizeable number of the communities, could not be part of the major developments. This was basically on account of lack of educational facilities there. The Guru was invited to consecrate a temple there, but he agreed only after the local leaders promised to start a school for the youngsters of the community.
The arrival of the saint marked a watershed in the history of the area, which today has earned a position among the most sought-after destinations in the country. The Guru was greeted with great fanfare and was taken to the venue to the accompaniment of scores of country boats, the main mode of transport in the area then. Ever since, the Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi Day is celebrated with the re-enactment of the arrival of the saint to the area and a boat race.
Interestingly, unlike in other boat races, the main trophy is reserved for the `iruttukuthy' variety of boats. In most of the other races, the mighty snake boats take the centre stage.
The Thazhathangadi race is one of the oldest in the State. But like many other traditions, had lost its glory. There was a time when the boat race attracted the attention star guests like the former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Salassie, who had instituted a trophy. Following the new tourism initiative, the Thazhathangadi race is also on the revival path.
The `Ooruchutti Vallamkali' is the last of the boat races which marks the agrarian festivals of yore. The Onam celebrations in the area which formally commence with the journey of the `Thiruonathoni' from Kumaranallore, come to an end with the boat race.
Closely related to the temple rituals of the Kumaranallore Sri Devi Temple, this is basically a goodwill cruise being taken up by the people coming under the purview of the temple seeking the Devi's blessings for themselves during the next one year. Scores of boats will participate in the race being taken up on the Meenachil river. It will commence from Kumaranallore and take a circular route via Nattassery, Sooryakaladi, Nagambadom, Panayakkazhippu, Govindapuram, Pulikkuttissery and Maryathuruth to reach Kumaranallore in the evening.
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