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‘Snake boat’ collides into houseboat, occupants swim to safety

‘Snake boat’ collides into houseboat, occupants swim to safety

 Sumesh RajanMumbai: August 9, 2018

Around 100 people had a lucky escape after a ‘snake boat’ collided with a houseboat while navigating a backwater channel in the state of Kerala, India, on August 5.

The incident occurred when the members of Kumarakom Navatara Boat Club were practising on their snake boat called Chundan Vallam (beaked boat) for the forthcoming Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race to be held at nearby Alappuzha.

“Over 95 oarsmen were paddling the snake boat in the Mutherimada canal when a houseboat strayed into its way accidentally. Instead of taking a left course the houseboat pilot turned to the right coming bang into the path of the swiftly paddling oarsmen,” said local resident Dipu Divakar a witness to the incident.

He further added that the oarsmen practice twice a day, and this was their second run around 4.30 in the evening when the mishap occurred. Luckily no one was injured in the collision.

Seconds before the two boats collided, the oarsmen in the front section of the snake boat jumped into the water to save themselves. Many people, who had gathered along the banks of the canal to cheer the practising oarsmen, rushed to their help and pulled them to safety.

A typical Chundan Vallam is 138 feet long and can accommodate more than 100 oarsmen. It is also called ‘snake boat’ for its resemblance to the shape of a hooded snake. Developed centuries ago and used as naval boats by the local kings, the Chundan Vallam is now used in boat races. Two men stand in the centre of the boat -- where once cannons were placed – and beat the Odithatta (fire platforms) with poles and sing Vanchipattu (songs) to maintain the rhythm of rowing. While the strongest oarsmen occupy the bow portion, the stern is manned by six well-built helmsmen in standing position, who help steer the boat. The chief oarsman occupies the highest point in the boat. Nowadays, every snake boat represents a village, and the boat races have become an integral part of Kerala’s cultural identity.



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