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Kritika Maurya Jun 28 2013

When and where are the boat races held in Kerala? What is the ticket price?

Reema Bhalla Jul 04 2013
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When Pt Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952, a snake boat race was held in his honour. He was so pleased that he requested it to be made an annual event.

As the starter gave the signal, the boats shot across the lake like arrows from a taut bow. The spectators lustily cheered as the oarsmen pulled hard. It was sheer human power that propelled the boats to the finishing line. It was the day of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in the Punnamada lake of Alappuzha. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952, in keeping with local traditions, a boat race was held in his honour. He was so pleased that he requested it to be made an annual event. He later donated a silver trophy—a replica of a ‘snake boat’ placed on a wooden abacus to the winners. The grateful recipients named it the Nehru Trophy.

The prima donnas of the race are the Chundan Vellam or the snake boats that were actually used as battle ships. The name (snake boat) is derived from the boat’s elaborately hooded stern.



A snake boat can be 100 ft long and needs 100 to 150 people to power it. The stern is decorated with flags and brass ornaments while silk parasols are arranged along the entire length of the boat. There is also a special ‘Display Race of Chundans’. The other categories include Churulan (passenger boats), Veppu (the kitchen boats that used to accompany the battle ships), Iruttukuthi (boats used for transportation during the night and also formerly sometimes used for piracy), and Thekkanodi (boats rowed only by women groups).


Each boat has its own group of vanchipattu or cheerleaders who sing to guide the oarsmen. Alappuzha is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ for its network of waterways. On the day of the race, all roads and rivers lead to the lakefront—especially to the starting and the finishing points. The town is fully festooned and several food stalls and Kathakali performances regale the visitors. This year the race will be held on August 10.


The Kochi airport, about 85 km from Alappuzha, is the nearest. Alappuzha is connected by road and rail with Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.


Tickets

There are many accomodation options available, apart from the private hotels, there are government approved houseboats too, with the tariff starting at INR 7500 per couple. However, if you have already booked your hotel and wish to just see the race, the tickets are for INR 1650.

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