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Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Alappuzha, Kerala
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This was started in 1952 when India's first Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Alappuzha, and inaugurated the function in which the gigantic snake boats called "Chundan Valloms" which are 60-65 meters in length with over 100 rowers in each raced one another. Nehru Trophy Boat Race, the annual water carnival at Punnamada Lake, is considered the biggest snake boat race in the world.
The boat race is conducted every year in Punnamada Lake in honor of Nehru. This boat race is a highly competitive event and the most popular of all the boat races in Kerala and the most colorful water sport in Kerala held on the festive occasion of Onam. On this occasion, large numbers of snake boats participate and compete for the prestigious Nehru trophy.
Most prestigious and interesting event is the competition of the "Chundan Vallam". Cheered and encouraged by thousands of supporters standing on the bank, the event provides a wholesome entertainment to the crowd. The race has also become a popular attraction for the foreign tourists visiting Kerala. Boat races are considered as an example of the communal harmony irrespective of casts, creed and classes, all the people can participate in boat race. It is one of those events, which the people of Kerala look forward to with excitement. The event is enjoyed equally by the locals as well as the tourists both Indian and foreigners.
Thousands of Keralites as well as tourists throng the Vembanad lake, east of Alappuzha town to witness the spectacle. Pavilions are set up for spectators on the banks and in the middle of the Punnamada Lake. Traditionally 16 chundan vallams participate in the race along with scores of smaller crafts like the churulan, veppu, odi etc., with a prize for each category. Champakulam, Kavalam, Karichal, Jawahar Thayangari, Kallooparamban, Pacha, Pulincunnu, Nedubhagam, Cheruthana, Kandangari and Paippad are the chief competitors for the trophies.
The boat is well decorated with colorful umbrellas. There are separate races for women too. The race begins with a colourful pageant of floats, performing arts and decorated boats. And goes on late into the evening. This is a prestigious cultural event of Kerala. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is celebrated, as a festival by the people of Alleppey and the main attraction of the festival is the sportsman's sprit of the participants of the race. A single mistake by anyone can cause imbalance and the boat may overturn. The fund of energy, spirit of competition and unerring co-ordination makes this sport extremely dynamic.
The race course, having a length of about 1370 mts , is divided into various tracks for the conduct of the competition. When they are advancing through various tracks , it appears like the fast moving snakes. The oarsmen splash the oars in unison with the rhythmic chants and beats of drum. The movement of competing boats are so thrilling that the spectators get in tune with the excited mood of the surrounding uproar. The boisterous and rhythmic boat songs or Vanchipattu work the spectators to a state of frenzy.
Nehru Trophy Boat race has become a very popular event over the years and all the boat clubs desire to win the prestigious Nehru Trophy. Tickets are available at various stalls on the way. Carrying Packed food and an umbrella to the venue will make you very comfortable. The boat race attracts a large number of tourists, domestic and foreign. The boat clubs and the boat race lovers of the locality spend lacks of rupees to embrace the prestigious Nehru Trophy which is considered as a matter of pride and prestige.