2020 Snake boat races suspended in Kerala, come alive in Perth

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Jalvolsavam (Water Festival) snake boat race perth

Hundreds of spectators on the lake front erupted with joy as the boats sliced through the waters, the oarsmen throwing their oars in unison to the fast-paced rhythm of the Keralan drums.

Kerala’s famous snake boat races?

No, Perth’s newest cultural experience.

The snake-boat (chundan) races in Kerala, a centuries-old tradition of water regatta called Vallam Kali, were suspended this year due to COVID.

However, for the first time ever in Australia, the spirit of Vallam Kali was celebrated with great fervour right here, in the scenic waters of Perth.  Champion Lakes became Vembanad Kaayal and dragon boats became our beloved chundans for a day.

Held in late September with necessary safety and hygiene precautions in place, the event was organised by the Perth United Malayalee Association Inc with Champion Lakes Boating Club.

They called it Jalvolsavam (Water Festival).

Jalvolsavam (Water Festival) snake boat race perth

READ ALSO: Kerala: Bringing God’s Own Country back

Thirteen teams competed in four qualifying races. Eight teams progressed to the semi-finals, and four fought the finals.

The boat Piara chundan of the Piara Spartans team claimed the first Jalolsavam Vallamkali Trophy. Karichal Chundans and Maylands Chundan finished second and third respectively.

“It took a lot of effort and weeks of practice to get to this stage,” a thrilled Binish Varghese, captain of Piara Spartans told Indian Link.

Anish Varughese, the team’s energetic drummer-cum-coach comes from a music background, which served him well in encouraging his team to the finish line.

Most of their team members work in emergency services like Health services and Policing, with all of them nurturing a passion for native country sports like Vadam valli  (Tug of War) and football, and that made this event even more special. 

mahabali on snake boat, perth

Participant Thomas Joseph brought special experience – having actually contested at the iconic races in Kerala.

“I was a regular oarsman of the Jawahar Thayangari chundan in the Kuttanad boat race for several years,” he told Indian Link. “Rowing this year after a gap of twenty years, in the Perth waters, was a wonderfully nostalgic experience.”

His boat this time, Karichal Chundan is in fact named in honour of a glorious black snake boat in Kerala with the same name.

Water regatta has been a part of Kerala’s cultural heritage for centuries, the unusual boats themselves a great symbol of the state. The vigour of the rowers is matched equally by the enthusiasm of the drummer-helmsmen, as well as by the cheering appreciation of the crowds. The helmsmen’s singing of the boat song (Vanchipattu) to urge on the rhythm of the rowers is just as iconic.

Its Australian avatar could well become an annual affair.

READ ALSO: Cricket for Kerala

Raveesh Karanil John, PUMA co-ordinator, observed, “We did not expect such a good turnout of teams, and such support from the public. The event which was originally scheduled for March had to be postponed owing to COVID 19 and now, organising this in September amidst the mild showers, added that monsoonic feel of an authentic Onam.”

In his inaugural speech, Paul Papalia, (WA Minister for Tourism, Racing and Gaming, Small Business, Defence Issues, Citizenship and Multicultural Interests) said, “It is wonderful to be witnessing the snake boat festival at Champion Lakes. I congratulate the participants and the organisers at PUMA.”

He was joined by dignitaries Kevin Michel (MLA Pilbara), Yaz Mubarakai (MLA Jandakot), Ruth Butterfield (Mayor Armadale) and John Bleinke (President, Champion Lakes Boating Club).

The Jalolsavam experience gave them a slice of the best of Kerala, from its food to its backwaters, right here in Perth for the first time.

[smartslider3 slider=”9″]

READ ALSO: Onam greetings of a different kind in Sydney

- Advertisement -

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -


Let’s Talk Boosters: Indian Link podcast

  In LET'S TALK BOOSTERS, a new podcast series by Indian Link, host Ekta Sharma quizzes Dr Kritman Dhamoon of Blacktown Hospital Sydney about booster...
Frontline worker Parita Patel (inset). Image supplied

‘Serving the community’: COVID testing in remote NSW

  The past two years have been a rollercoaster of COVID-19 related turmoil; from isolating lockdowns, closed borders, to trying to help Indians in the...

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

  Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

gurpreet singh

#MyWork: Prison officer Gurpreet Singh

  Sydney’s GURPREET SINGH tells RAJNI ANAND LUTHRA about his work with Corrective Services NSW. My job title Deputy Superintendent Classifications and Placement, at the Silverwater Correctional...
Bhaukaal 2

Review: Bhaukaal season 2 (MX Player)

  There is no pre-defined meaning to the title, 'Bhaukaal', but colloquially in the local North Indian lingo, it egoistically means "in one's own style,...

Auntyji on the ethics of cross-racial surrogacy

  Dear Auntyji I don’t know if you have watched a Hindi film on surrogacy on Netflix called Mimi, but I have a question for you...
book review rashida tayabali

BOOK REVIEW: Life after Ali by Rashida Tayabali

  The story begins with Tasneem, a mother of two adolescent children, attending her husband Ali’s funeral at a mosque in Sydney. Ali’s sudden and untimely...

 REVIEW: Mission Frontline season 2 (Discovery+)

  The series is like a documentary. It introduces the audience to the armed forces, close and upfront, with the help of celebrities. AT A GLANCE ...