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Palliyodams are Aranmula’s unique snake boats ("Chundan Vallam") which devotees hold in reverence, considering it as the divine vessel of the presiding deity in Sree ParthaSarathy temple. These Palliyodams belong to different places on the banks of river Pampa. Each one will usually have 4 helmsmen, rowers and singers. It is decorated with golden lace. There will be a flag and two or three ornamental umbrellas. Standing on the platform in the middle of the boat, the main singer will lead the special song (vanchi pattu) and the other singers follow him. The song is composed in a special rhythm with a special tone and oarsmen will do the rowing according to the rhythm. The 4 helmsmen control the direction and balance of the palliyodams.
The making of the Palliyodams starts with locating a suitable tree preferably Anjili, cutting it down and bringing to the location for construction. The work will start on an auspicious day . These boats are about 100 to 138 ft in length, with the rear portion towering to a height of about 20 ft. and a long tapering front portion. When completed it resembles a snake with its hood raised. Its hull is built of planks precisely 83 feet in length and six inches wide.
Every year the boats are oiled mainly with fish oil, coconut shell, and carbon, mixed with eggs to keep the wood strong and the boat slippery in the water. The carpenter’s carries out annual repairs and people take pride in their boat, which is named after and represents their village.
It is believed that the presence of Lord ParthaSarathy exists in these boats. The people handle the boat as a holy and wear white loin cloth and turban. Traditionally it will be commanded by a Village leader.