Thiruvalla: With changing times boat building too has changed in Kerala which is famed for popular races on its lakes and other waterbodies.
A unique snake boat (chundan vallam) that is being built by the people of Venpala-Kadalimangalam here in Pathanamthitta district will be able to pass effortlessly beneath all the 16 bridges along the waterway to the Parthasarathy Temple at Aranmula. The new boat will have a foldable stern to make its passage under the bridges smooth. The snake boat regularly participates in the traditional ‘vallasadya’ (feast on a boat) of the temple and the Uthruttathi boat race on Pamba river at Aranmula.
The innovative stern is 18 feet high and it could be folded to a height of 8 feet. In other words, a 10-ft section would be turned over to the rear using a steel mechanism. This facility can be set in motion when the boat arrives near a low-lying bridge. After the boat passes the bridge, the stern can be raised to its normal height.
The present snake boat of Venpala-Kadalimangalam used to negotiate bridges by removing the wooden stern, which was a laborious process. It was to avoid this trouble that the new arrangement spending Rs 2 lakh was planned. During its trip from Kadalimangalam, the bridges at Eramallikkara, Kuthiyathode, Vanavathukkara and Venpala were difficult to pass.
“The new boat will have a smooth ride below the low bridges,” said convener of the boat building committee Suresh G Puthenpurakkal.
The technical know-how to fold the stern was developed by the snake boat architect Ayiroor Satheesh Kumar. He is installing the contraption to the boat now. The entire stern including the flag and other decorations would collapse to the rear side under the new mechanism. The controls for making this happen is fixed close to the place where the first oarsman stands at the stern.
The snake boat of the Chennithala village has another arrangement to reduce the height of the stern. In that boat, the stern is slid backwards and brought down. However, the mechanism to fold the stern to the rear is being introduced for the first time in the Venpala-Kadalimangalam boat, said the office-bearers of the boat building committee.
It has been decided to launch the new snake boat on July 18. The work is in full swing and 14 craftsmen are busy under the leadership of Satheesh Kumar. The iron and steel works are carried out by a team led by Unnikrishnan Anjilikkad. They have set up a smithy at the spot for the purpose.
To improve safety, a 4-inch-wide strip of iron is being fixed all along edges of the boat. In addition, special decorations are being done on the platform, the pointed end at the front and stern.
Meanwhile, the old snake boat of Venpala-Kadalimangalam will be shifted to the water on July 11. It will accompany the new boat during the trip to Aranmula on August 5. There, the old boat will be handed over to Varayannoor 'kara’. The residents of Varayannoor had lost their snake boat during the floods last year and the ‘palliyodam’ (boat) used by Venpala-Kadalimangalam so far is meant as a replacement.
Several concrete bridges had come up over the waterbodies in Kerala in the second half of the last century.