Made of Anjili wood, the chundan valloms or snake boat of Kerala are over 24 to 36 m long with raised sterns designed to resemble the hood of a cobra. These giant backwater wonders can accommodate up to 100 oarsmen.
Kerala has always had a wide range of ethnic boats which served various purposes of transportation. The most grandeous among these being the chundan valloms. The boat races of modern Kerala have legends associated with them. When aristocracy was prevalent in the state, the rulers of various kingdoms would be accompanied on their journeys by quite a few boats – each for a particular purpose like carrying food, clothes and vessels, servants, women, arms etc. These royal entourages, colourful processions were an exciting spectacle for the people. Once royalty moved out of the scene these processions became a ritualistic tradition to be kept alive. The modern boat races thus have become the sole occasions when most boats are used.
The first chundan vallom dates back to the 9th century and used to accommodate upto 200 men on board. The early Europeans who came to Kerala called them ‘Snake boat’ because of its great length that resembled the ‘Snake boats’ of Norway.
Today, chundan vallom miniatures have carved a niche for themselves in every home, as well as curio shops and handicrafts emporia across the State. Hundreds of villagers have made an occupation of making these models which are in great demand across the world.
The chundan miniatures are seen with varied decorations – sandalwood or ivory fittings, brass buttons etc. and are often modified as candle stands, pen stands, key holders etc. Prices range from less than a hundred rupees to a few hundreds depending on the size, the kind of wood and embellishments used. They are available at bargain rates at fancy stores and for standard rates at government emporia across the State.
Buy this product from Culture Shoppe, the official agency of the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala to promote Kerala Souvenirs. Souvenirs are available at Culture Shoppe’s outlet at Mascot Hotel, Thiruvananthapuram – 695 033, Kerala. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org