The Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is widely regarded as one of the oldest and famous celebrations in Kerala. The race is usually held on the River Pamba on Moolam day of the Malayalam month of Midhunam – which is regarded as the day the deity is installed in the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple.
Back in the olden days, Maharaja Devanarayana of Chempakasseri was ordered by the priest to construct a temple at Ambalappuzha. However, he realized before installing the deity that it was not considered auspicious. The King wanted to find a solution to this problem. His minister offered a solution to this problem – he said that the Lord Krishna idol, which was located at the temple in Kurichi, presented by Arjuna himself, should be brought to the temple. Thus, the minister went made the long trip and came back with the idol in tow.
During their journey back home, they stopped for a night at Champakkulam to perform a holy ceremony. The next morning, a colorful procession comprising of beautifully decorated boats assembled to bring the auspicious idol to the temple, which was located on the other side of the shore. Today, the tradition is still upheld in the form of the Champakkulam boat race, which is held in that honour. Spectators are treated to a spectacular show of water floats and decorated boats before the start of the race. It marks the beginning of celebrations.
It should be noted that in Kerala, the festival dates are decided by the Malayalam calendar as well as the local traditions and customs of the land. Hence, the festival usually takes place in June or July. The race lasts for that one day and often marks the beginning of other boat races in surrounding areas.