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Reema Bhalla Jul 29 2013

How and when is the boat race celebrated in Alappuzha?

Reet Cheema Jul 30 2013
3 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

The popular boat race in Kerala has an interesting history. Kuttanad’s own Olympics on water used to be a traditional local snakeboat (chundan vallam) race till Jawaharlal Nehru saw one in 1952, and excitedly clambered into a boat, forgetting all security arrangements. He donated a Silver Trophy, formalizing the Nehru Trophy Boat Race.

Photo of Nehru Trophy Boat Race (by -Reji)


The boat race is held on the second Saturday of August every year. Days ahead of the race, Alappuzha’s waterways light up in anticipation with boats giving joy rides, participants rehearsing, pavilions being prepared, gates erected, travel agents and ticket-sellers doing brisk business. On the great day of the boat race, locals rush over almost five hours in advance to grab a coveted spot.


Photo of the boat race competition (by Anoop Negi)


The lake waters are fringed by palm trees, the rhythmic beats of traditional drummers, the spirited crowds contained in tight pavilions on islands, the animated loudspeaker commentary, the dramatic entry of oarsmen, the rowdy cheerleaders’ dingy, the leisurely houseboats, the arrival of VIPs… and then the snake boats.

Gracefully gliding through the water in perfect harmony, each over 50 metres long, their embellished prows raised like a snake’s hood, powered by the muscles of over a hundred arms are — the chundan vallams. Book a package to Kerala in advance to make the most of these scenic vistas.

Photo of a boat race in progress (by Manojk)


Originally used for war and considered sacred, the traditional snake boat is handcrafted from local forest wood and streamlined to perfection by master boat-builders whose handiwork often determines split-second victories in a boat race. The boats are polished with sardine oil for a smoother ride, while oarsmen are carefully selected and sworn to abstinence and celibacy by villagers who look after their meals till the day of the race. Along with observing the preparations for the boat race, you can also indulge in other things to do in Alleppey if you arrive days in advance.


Photo of women rowers (by ToreaJade)


You'll also see veppu, kitchen boats that traditionally accompanied war boats, and iron chundan rowed by women in traditional white-and-gold saris. The attractions are a spectacular feat of a thousand biceps, synchronised oars, colours in the lake waters, hysterical commentary, cheering crowds, mass singing and close finishes.

After the boat race, there is a cultural show. The Nehru Trophy Race is the finalé of the event. Do book the best hotels, as per your budget, as the hotels spill over with guests from across the globe around this time. Travelling to Kerala to attend the boat race event, will mean travelling during the monsoons. You might also consider reading more about other monsoon holiday options in Kerala.

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