There’s no doubt that ‘Fort Kochi’ and ‘Mattanchery’ are the prominent tourist destinations in Ernakulam, Kerala. But there’s something else, I am sure most of the tourists might have missed while strolling along the streets of Mattanchery – a 106 ft long ‘ Snake Boat’ which is more than 110 years old.
‘ Punnamthottam – the Thiruvaranmula Palliyodam’ as it is called could be seen in an antique shop called ‘ Heritage Arts ’ in Mattanchery.
Palliyodam is a large snake boat built and used by Hindu temples when they organize procession through the rivers.
The Thiruvaranmula Palliyodam was once used to accompany the ‘Thiruvonathoni’ ( boat carrying sumptuous feast prepared during the Onam festival to Sree Parthasarathy temple at Aranmula in Alappuzha district of Kerala from Maha Vishnu Temple at Kattoor during its heydays. And it’s the long boat that had to ensure the protection of Thiruvonathoni from bandits.
ONAM : Irrespective of any religion, every Malayalis celebrate Onam, the major harvest festival in Kerala. This year’s Onam will be celebrated on August 25. And a sumptuous feast called ‘ Thiruvona Sadya’ is one of its main attraction.
A tête-à-tête with the shop’s owner NB Majnu revealed that ‘Heritage arts’ is the largest artefact shop in South India. He was all smiles while narrating how he got hold of such a prized possession.
I believe it’s a divine luck which preserved the Palliyodam, he recollects. A few years back, the Aranmula Karayogam which owned the snake boat decided to set it ablaze as per the tradition. It is believed that the Palliyodams have life and have to be cremated once they complete their lifespan. Majnu somehow came to know about and quickly bought it.
Majnu remembers that it was a Herculean task to transport the snake boat to Mattanchery. As many as 70 people were employed for the purpose. “It was rowed from Aranmula via Thakazhi till Chengannur. Then, it was brought to Mattanchery using boats,” he said.
Since the Plliyodam is more than 100 years old, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has asked the owner to take necessary steps to preserve it and not to export it.
This is the only place in the country where a snake boat is preserved as an antique piece other than the one in the Bhopal Museum.