Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is conducted on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, on the second Saturday of August, every year. So this year, the race will be held on the 12th of August 2017. This race is a popular Vallam Kali in Alappuzha, Kerala and has been an annual event ever since 1954. Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means boat play/game, but can be translated to boat race in English. The most popular event of the race is the competition of Chundan Vallams (snake boats). Hence the race is also known as Snake Boat Race in English.
The race course is 1.4 km in Punnamada Lake. The 100–120 feet long canoes made of a wood locally called “Aanjili thadi”, carrying 90- 110 rowers, moves like a snake through the channels and is an eye catching sight for any tourist. The Chundan Vallam also has the record as “the biggest water vessel used for sports purpose”.
Every year on the second Saturday of August, the Punnamada Lake is a witness to their calm and tranquil waters being set afire with the furious rowing of hundreds of oarsmen and many a snake boat slicing across the waters vying for the coveted Jawaharlal Nehru trophy. The otherwise peaceful lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two lakh people, including tourists from abroad who are most enthralled with this event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is something to be celebrated for months to come.
During this event, the lake and surrounding areas take on a festive splendor. The ceremonial water processions, vibrant floats and beautifully decorated boats transfuse life into this impressive festival. This annual water contest involves the participation of chundan valloms (snake boats) and smaller country rafts. The drum beats along with the chanting of the boat songs by the numerous oarsmen, known as Vanchipattu, builds the environment for a perfect event. The string of activities held during the boat race all add up to create a distinct identity for the event. Music and folk dance performances are included to enhance the gaiety of this event. The participants in this race compete fiercely to come out as winners. The sight of the men rowing the Chundans or Snake Boats is commendable. Every oarsman, willingly puts in his best effort along with the team to achieve glory for his village. It is a matter of great pride for the villagers to achieve victory in this race. There is a feverish excitement in the air and the air resounds with cheers and applauses.
This festival encourages a sense of unity, alliance and sportsmanship amongst the villagers. The snake boats are sponsored by different villages and the competition is rigorous. Each boat with over 100 rowers, race to the finish line with the sound of inspiring and thriving music. The race is Alappuzha’s most significant tourist event. KARICHAL CHUNDAN holds the record for being the fastest chundan in the race during 2016 where it boasted a heats time of 4m:15s.
This event is televised live every year by Doordarshan. In 2016 the event was shown in High Definition Channel (Doordarshan HD) for the first time. All stations of All India Radio also broadcasts the live commentary of the event every year.
How to reach:
Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha, is situated in South Indian state of Kerala.
By train: There are regular trains from other major cities of the country to Alappuzha.
By air: Instead of Alappuzha you can a get flight to Kochi Airport on regular basis.
By road: Alappuzha is well connected to other major cities of the country via regular buses.
AbhiBus too offers bus services from Ernakulam, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai to Alappuzha. So hurry, book your bus tickets online at abhibus.com, to take you in time for this amazing festival.
Picture Credit: Travel – Manorama Online