The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is an annual event that takes place in Punnamuda at Alappuzha. This boat race or “vallamkalli” as it’s called is one of the most celebrated sporting events in Kerala. It is conducted on the second Saturday of every August. Chundan Vallam or snake boat race is the most popular type of event conducted here. The other types of boat races include Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam , Vadakkanody Vallam and Kochu Vallam. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is conducted every year by the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Society. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race has in fact brought attention the Alapuzha in terms of world tourism.
The Decoration of Chundan Vellam is given a lot of importance and the boat comes alive in varied colours. Umbrellas and colourful trimmings on the boat form part of the decoration. This boat is made of a local type of wood called the “aanjili thadi”. It has the capacity to hold over a hundred rowers, twenty five cheerleaders and four helmsmen. This boat is over thirty to sixty meters in length too. This is the only sport where there are over a hundred participants belonging to one team.
The history of a boat race dates back to centuries where there was constant tussle between Chempakasherry, Kayamkulam, Thekkumkoor and Vadakamkoor rajas. The Chempakasheery troops suffered heavy loss due to defective boats. The Raja then decided to have all architects in his kingdom to design boats that were fast and could carry a lot of men too. Chempakasherry Venkitanarayana Asari came up with the current snake boat’s design. The boat he designed was swift and could carry about a hundred men. Soon, the Chempakasherry Raja started winning all the battles and also rewarded the Asari handsomely.
Even today, this boat making requires a lot of skill and knowledge. Boat architects need to train extensively under the experts to pick up subtle nuances that help in giving the boat its agility and speed. A cost of minimum six lakhs is required to make a single snake boat. The Vellankulangara snake boat is the longest snake boat with a length of one hundred and forty feet.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race got its name from the first Prime Minister of India, Sri Jawaharlal Nehru. He was escorted by these snake boats during his first visit to Kerala in the year 1952 and was so fascinated by the impromptu race that was conducted then that he donated a trophy. This trophy is a replica of a snake boat and has the words “To the winner of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore – Cochin” inscribed on it.
Intense skill, knowledge about the waters and grit and determinations is needed to win this race, as even one wrong move by a rower may cause them to lose. Weeks of practice is done prior to this race.
Millions of tourists come from all over the world to see this fascinating boat race. It’s a celebration in itself. Chambakulam Chundan was the winner of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in the year 2014.
The purchase of the tickets should be done from the authorized outlet only. This can be identified by the authorized seal of the committee and the serial number. It is advisable to reach the area around eleven in the morning to get excellent seats.
Explosive items and dangerous electronic devices are not allowed in the pavilion. Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited in this area.
The tickets are available for various price ranges. The lowest fare is rupees fifty and the highest fare is rupees two thousand. Higher the value of money, better the view of watching the finishing point in the range.
The nearest airport to Alappuzha is the Cochin International Airport. The bus routes are well connected to this region too.