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Battle it Out: The Nehru Trophy Boat Race of Kerala

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race, on the scenic backwaters of Alleppy, is a visual extravaganza and makes for a heart-skipping moment for many

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a premier snake boat race, held in Punnamada Lake, near Alleppey, Kerala. Every year, the game is conducted on the second Saturday of August and is a famous tourist attraction. The story of how this boat race came into existence is rather intriguing – In 1952, when Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Kerala, he received a roaring reception from the people of Alleppey while being escorted on one of the snake boats travelling from Kottayam to Alleppey. He was thrilled hearing deafening cheers from thousands of people and raised his hands to receive their salutations. Indira Gandhi and her children were also present that day with him. A great boom was heard, declaring the start of the race. Throughout the event, as he watched the race through his binoculars, Pandit Nehru displayed a childlike vision of himself. As the boats approached the finishing line towards the Pavilion, where Nehru was seated, he suddenly sprang to his feet in a gesture of ultimate excitement. Amongst the many snake boats vying for supremacy, ‘Nadubhagom Chundan’ crossed the finishing line with an unbelievable speed, to be the first-ever winner in this impromptu race, conducted in honour of Nehru. The winning boat won the prestigious Silver Trophy, donated by Nehru, which was later known as Nehru Trophy.

This event marked the beginning of one of the greatest water sports in the world. People from across the world arrive in great numbers to watch the spectacular boat race in Kerala. The run-up to the race is marked by a host of events, such as photo exhibitions, cultural parades, painting contests and competitions in ‘Vanchipattu’ (poetry songs). However, after the devastating floods during this season, the current edition of this regular fixture was rescheduled to take place on November 10, 2018. On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, the tranquil lake front of Punnamada is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two lakh people witnessing the ‘Kuttanad’s Olympics on water,’ including tourists from abroad. For the people of Kuttanad and its surrounding villages, a victory at this race is something to be celebrated for months to come.

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