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Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Kerala

It is during the harvest season that the amity among the people of Kerala actually comes to light. Besides contributing hugely towards state tourism, these events also prove to be a window to the vibrant cultural heritage of Kerala. Named after independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Nehru Trophy Boat race has the eminence of being the most esteemed of all the boat races in Kerala. Both foreign nationals and locals from throughout the country arrive in Kerala during the harvest season to be a part of one of the most culturally rich events in the history of Kerala. In the year 2005, much controversy was created when announcement by the Inland Water Authority of India came to construct a cargo terminal at the very venue of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. Thanks to the genuine efforts of the state government that the site was saved.

Historical Background
Snake boat races are a part and parcel of Kerala’s culture and lifestyle. Right from the year 1952 when the Nehru Trophy Boat Race was first introduced till today, the fervour with which the people of Kerala anticipate the even has never faded. The commencement of the boat race in the above mentioned year was a tribute to commemorate Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the backwater town of Alappuzha (presently Alleppey).

Extremely delighted by the event, Nehru gave away a silver trophy. The trophy had the following words inscribed on it : " To the winners of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore - Cochin."

Venue and Time of the Year
Nehru Trophy Boat Race is organized in the second week of August every year. The whole expanse of the Punnamada Backwaters (Alappuzha) comes to life as hordes of snake boats start to contend for the winner’s trophy. Around 1370 m of the backwater expense at Punnamada becomes the race course for these snake boats (referred to as chundan vallams in Malayalam language).

Boat Types Participating in Race
Though the race of the Chundan Valloms vying against each other is the biggest draw for visitors, there are numerous other boat types that can be seen participating in various events of the race. Other types of boats that one can notice at the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha include Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam (Vaipu Vallam), Vadakkanody Vallam and Kochu Vallam.

Winner Who Scored a Hat trick
Continuing from 2004 till 2006, it was Raju Vadakathu who won the Nehru Trophy for three consecutive years. A silver miniature of the snake boat is given away as the winning trophy. Though Raju Vadakathu has retired from his position, he really deems his win as the most exciting and memorable moment of his life.

Did you know?
The ‘chundan vallom’ or the snake boat is built of a special kind of forest wood, termed as ‘Aanjili thadi’. The boat measures 100-120 ft in length and carries around 110 rowers. A ‘chundan vallom’ also has the distinction of being the biggest sporting water vessel.