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  • Churulam Vallam Stern

Wood
19th century
Kerala, Southern India
Boats and Boat Heads

The Kerala backwaters are a labyrinthine network of narrow canals, lakes, rivers, and lagoons that extend across half the length of the state and run parallel to the Arabian seacoast. Before the introduction of motorable roads to this region, vallam (wooden boats) were the only means of local transportation between the villages, islands and the mainland. Propelled by long bamboo punts or wooden oars, vallam are still used for fishing as well as to ferry people and provisions.

The churulan vallam gets its name from the distinctive churul or circular rings on either end. Typically, churulan vallam are medium sized boats, 25-30 metres in length, capable of seating up to 45 people. They usually have a deep V shaped hull that enhances the vessel's stability in choppy waters. These originally served as the pleasure boats of the nobility but are now featured in the annual snake boat races held during the Onam festival.

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