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Ambalappuzha Group’s Arrival

The Champakulam Vallamkali or Champakulam Boat Race begins after the Ambalappuzha Sangham (group) arrives from Sree Krishna Swamy Temple at Ambalapuzha with the payasam (dessert). It is considered to be a sacred food item and is commonly known as ‘prasadam’ in Malayalam. It is prepared as an offering to God and distributed among devotees after completing all the rituals. The Ambalapuzha Sangham makes their appearance every year in Champakulam as part of this ritual. The history of the boat race is related to the story of the idol in the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple.

The belief goes that the temple was built by the King of Chembakassery, called Devanarayanan, following the advice of Vilwamangalam Swamikal. Ambalapuzha was under the rule of a king called Purakkadu. When Devnarayanan defeated Purakkadu, the Vasudevapuram Purakkadu Sree Krishna Temple was left neglected. It is said that the temple ruins and the destroyed idol were protected by the Kurichi Vallya Mattom family. In order to resolve the issues that had taken root in the wake of the destruction of the temple, Vilwamangalam Swamikal advised that the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple be built in Ambalapuzha. On the day of the installation of the new idol in the temple, it was found to be impure. Therefore, the King ordered his minister, Kozhimukku Parayil Menon, to look for another idol. Menon and the sangham reached the Kurichi Vallya Mattom family from where the idol was taken back to Ambalapuzha on a boat with great pomp and celebration. 

The King had instructed Menon and his group to rest with the idol at Champakulam Koyìkkeri Mappilassery Ittithaman’s house in case night fell. The Mappilassery family and the entire village welcomed the group for setting down the idol at the Mappilassery house. The next day, the King of Chembakassery, Devanarayayanan, and his family came to the ancestral house of Mappilassery to receive the idol. They went back to Ambalapuzha, amid the festivities, on a boat. On their way home, they were welcomed by the Kalloorkad church with fireworks. The idol was also venerated at the Nadubhagom Mattom goddess temple on the shores of the Champakulam river with a pantheeradi puja. The Champakulam Snake Boat Race is held during Onam every year in memory of this grand water parade. 

It is to revive this historical ceremony that the Ambalapuzha Sangham proceeds to Champakulam with the Ambalapuzha paal payasam (dessert made with a milk base).  The Sangham, after reaching the temple, goes to the Mappilassery tharavadu (household) where the idol is set down. They offer prayers to the idol inside the tharavadu. They arrive at Mappilassery by a ‘Churullan’ boat. They also accept the welcome by the Kalloorkad church as per the conventional ritualistic practice. It is after the Ambalapuzha Sangham’s return journey that the famous Champakulam Vallamkali or Champakulam Vallamkali Boat Race begins.

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