Literature of Kerala
Story Dated: Tuesday, November 29, 2005 22:1 hrs IST
The song of the oarsmen, or the Vanchippattu is sung in rhythm with the splash of the oars. The songs have their themes in rustic life and mythology. After long years of separation, Kuchelan decides finally to seek the help of his friend.
The song tells the story of their meeting. At that time Sree Krishna, his friend was the ruler of the kingdom of Dwaraka. Vanchippattu (boatman's song) is closely linked to the geography and lifestyle of Kerala. With over 1900 km of waterways crisscrossing the State, boats were the major means of transport in Kerala until a few decades ago.
Even today some districts depend largely on water transport. It is not surprising that the Vanchippattu developed on the rivers and backwaters, sung by boatmen on long voyages to entertain themselves and keep up their spirits. But today with the boats, having given way to road and rail transport, the Vanchippattu has been relegated to books and Malayalam literature.
The more spirited of these songs, however, can still be heard at the snakeboat races in the Onam season during August/September.