Nehru Trophy Boat Race: The Nehru Trophy Boat Race or Snake Boat Race is the most popular of the many boat festivals in Kerala. It is held annually on Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, and is the most competitive boat race in India. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a commemoration of the visit to the Backwaters of Kerala by the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1952.
The whole community comes out to cheer on the racers. The loud and rhythmic boat songs or “Vanchipattu” work the spectators to a state of frenzy. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a great opportunity for tourists to experience the real local culture of South India while seeing some of the most beautiful scenery Kerala has to offer.
The festival begins with a procession of the chundan vallams or snake boats. The locally made chundans (snake boats) are an impressive sight. They measure over 100 feet in length and have a raised prow. Propelled by 90-110 rowers, the chundans are an eye catching sight as they race like a snake through the channels of Punnamda Lake (hence the name snake boat).
On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, the tranquil lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two hundred thousand people coming to watch the event. Each village in the surrounding area enters a boat in the race and a victory is something to be celebrated for months to come.
Preparations for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race begin several weeks in advance. Floats giving glimpses of Kerala’s rich cultural heritage follow the race boats, with artists performing “kathakali” “theyyam” “panchavadyam” and “padayani”. Visitors will also have a chance to see elaborately caparisoned elephants during this festival.