Nehru Trophy Boat Race

The rhythms are the loudest when the oars dip and flash 100 to 120 times a minute as the flag falls in a blur indicating the start of the competition.  Conducted on the second Saturday of August every year, the Nehru Trophy Boat race transforms the otherwise serene and tranquil lake of Punnamada into a sea of around two lakh people and the lake itself becomes “Chundan Vallams”- Snake Boats. The Snake Boats are superior canoes built by Kings themselves to give an edge over their adversaries in river battles. With the passage of time, the wars got settled leaving behind many unused snake boats which were later used for entertainment purposes like boat races.

To mark the visit of the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to Alleppey in 1952, an energetic and pleasing welcome was done by the people of Alleppey in the form of a boat trip, accompanied by a pageantry of boats, from Alleppey to Kottyam, followed by a colorful Boat Race named “the Prime Minister’s Trophy” in the Vembanad lake for the first time.  But the continuity of the competition was done to commemorate the real happiness and excitement expressed by the then Prime Minister during his visit. The Prime Minister got so enthralled by the uproar of the crowd, the rowers weaving their oars to the rhythmic chants and beats of drums and floats  with artists performing “kathakali” “theyyam” “panchavadyam” and “padayani”  following the race boats etc, that he tried to jump into the Winner’s  boat when it reached very near to his pavilion. Later, a pleasure trip was made by the Prime Minister standing inside the winner’s boat, accompanied by other snake boats for security. This event marked the beginning of the greatest water sport in the world.

Jawaharlal Nehru then proceeded to Delhi from where he sent a silver trophy for the winners of the boat race. The trophy was shaped in the form of a snake with the inscription, “To the winners of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore”. Since then, every year the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is organized at the Punnamada Lake.