Snake boats, India

Photo © Ross Morrison McGill

Hang onto your seat or you’ll end up without one, or even in the water, at this manic boat race. A hysterical atmosphere in which crowd members climb, jostle, cheat, swim or smile to get a pew in front of you sets the scene for what is now a tourist pilgrimage.

The masses come to see a small flotilla of ‘snake boats’ with apparently impossible dimensions compete in a series of races. These huge canoes measure up to 120ft long, and carry up to 100 rowers sitting in tandem, begging the question of how they even stay afloat.

Yet the surprisingly fast craft dart through the backwaters like a snake, propelled by the rowers who paddle to a drum-led beat. The race has taken place in Punnamada Lake, near Alappuzha in Kerala, for over half a century.

Written by - Photo by Ross Morrison McGill

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