THE PICTURESQUE VILLAGE of Aranmula, situated on the banks of the Pampa river, is famous as the venue for Kerala’s magnificent snake boat races. The boat race festival has its origins in the legend of a devotee who once gave food to a Brahmin, believed to be Vishnu in disguise. However, the Brahmin, before disappearing, advised him to send his offering to Aranmula instead, Since then, during the festival, a ceremonial boat, carved out of a single block of wood, carries a consignment of food from a nearby village to the temple at Aranmula. On the last day of Onam this ceremonial boat leads a procession of about 30 snake boats to the temple. On this day, there is no racing and all the boats arrive together, as Krishna is said to be present on each boat at the same time.
The Parthasarathy Temple, one of the state’s five most important temples, is dedicated to Krishna, and has an image of the god as Parthasarathy, the Divine Charioteer in the great epic, the Mahabharata. The image was brought here on a raft made of six bamboos, and this is what the town’s name signifies – in Malayalam aaru means six and mula, bamboo. Aranmula is also known for its unique metal mirrors made from an alloy of silver, bronze copper and lead. These mirrors were traditionally used as part of the arrangement of auspicious objects during Vishu, the Malayali New Year. in April.
ENVIRONS: The 14th-century Thiruvamundur Temple, near Chengannur, 7 km (4 miles) west of Aranmula is dedicated to Krishna and attributed to Nakul, one of the five Pandava brothers. Near Chenganacherry , 27 km (17 miles) northwest of Aranmula, is the Tirukkotdittanam Temple. This 11th-century temple is dedicated to Sahaclev, Nakul’s twin brother, and has lovely murals adorning its walls.