A MUST-WITNESS EVENT IN KERALA
Have you ever thought about how a whole state can express pride and supremacy just by conducting a contest?
If the answer is “No” you must visit Punnamada.
It is a small village located in Alappuzha in the state of Kerala. Being well known for its scenic beauty and backwaters, this place is also very famous for the Nehru Trophy Race – A boat race that is worldwide popular and prestigious that bought millions of visitors all around the world to this land. The boats that are used in events are called as snake boats, colloquially known as Chundan Vallam. The boat is described as a snake boat because it resembles the hood of the snake. Those traditional boats are built long and narrow with only wood and bamboo but it can accommodate up to upto150 members.
Nehru Trophy Race – A fascinating vigorous competition
This competition usually occurs in the second week of August during the period of Onam – A harvest festival celebrated predominantly in Kerala. But the preparation for this competition commences a month in advance. People decorate their boats in a unique and eye-catching manner with their team’s flag, flowers, paints and other kinds of decorative stuff to showcase their creativity and cultural heritage.
Also Read:- Best Places to Celebrate Onam Festival in Kerala
Before the event begins, there will be a grand procession of snake boats, accompanied by traditional music and cultural-oriented performances. Several teams from different places in Kerala take part in the contest, with each team consisting of about 100 – 150 members, who will be transformed into vigorous rowers. The race is held on a straight-line course that covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometers (0.87 miles).
It would be a Pulse-pounding experience to watch a lake turning into a wavy sea as each team rows their snake boats vigorously in a synchronized movement, competing with the others. To add more spices to the event, and also to cheer up and energizes the rowers, a traditional folk song of Kerala called “Vanchipaatu” is performed by several members at the outset of the event and some even be present inside the snake boats along with the rowers. The Musicians play various instruments such as Chenda Mela (a cylindrical shaped percussion instrument), Ilathalam (cymbals), and Kombu (a wind instrument). The Vanchipattu performers would make the audience fall in love with their rhythmic tunes which are performed in response to the movement of the rowers. The combination of electrifying beats, the sound of the song, the hustle of the rowers and the noises of the people cheering their favorite teams will transform the atmosphere into a paradisiacal setup.
What is the origin of the snake boat race?
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The history of the snake boat race can be traced back to ancient days when Kerala was divided into certain small kingdoms called as “Nadus.” These kingdoms were often involved in conflicts and wars with each other. Snake boats played a significant role in the battles, by aiding as transportation for soldiers and supplies. The specialty of using snake boats for war is that it swiftly moves troops across water bodies, with an aim to perform a surprise attack on the enemies and their territories.
The rise of rivals –
The war material became a material of entertainment and sports only after when Jawaharlal Nehru – The Former Prime Minister of India visited Alappuzha during his Kerala tour in the year 1952. During that period, the local communities of Alappuzha conducted a friendly boat race. Impressed by the spirit and enthusiasm of the participants, Nehru came forth to honour the winners with a silver trophy which was actually shaped like a snake boat. Later then it was called as the “Nehru trophy race” which is conducted every year.
Nehru trophy race – Not just an entertainment but an endless effort.
While reading or looking about this race you must not only consider it as entertainment instead, you will have to shift your perspective regarding the event. Rowing a boat might sound simple, but rowing it in a coordinated manner, up to the distance of 1.4 kilometers without rest or hesitation is not an easy task. There is a long process of preparation among the members to face the biggest challenges that the race would offer to them. Prior to the month of the race, the members involve themselves in numerous workouts, intake healthy strengthening foods like Karimeen Pollichathu (fish) Malabar Parotta with Kerala beef curry egg and milk and do other things to maintain their immense physical strength and endurance.
During the race the rowers, toil to the maximum, exerting full strength from their bodies to row the boat. The intense action of rowing results in the straining of the muscles, particularly the arms, shoulders and back. The continuous act of doing the same task for a long period of time would sometimes result in muscle fatigues, cramps nausea and soreness. With addition to that, the members are exposed to hot and humid conditions, which may lead to dehydration and exhaustion.
The most crucial part of the race is the co-ordination among the members who row the boats in a synchronized manner. If any one of the members is found not matching the team’s speed or performance, then it means that he is putting his team in vain. So each and every individuals have the greatest hand in bringing success to the team. Though the members toil and suffer physically during the race, they forget all the pain and pricks when they celebrate their triumph after the race. This disaster-to-triumph phenomenon is the specialty of this competition.
Why should you visit the Nehru trophy boat race?
I presume that you are already prepared to visit Alappuzha after reading this. But still, there are some more interesting reasons to visit this place.
The beautiful backwaters of Kerala – Backwaters, and lagoons are something special that highlights the beauty of Kerala. Alappuzha is often described as the “Venice of the East” due to its gorgeous network of lakes, lagoons and canals. The Punnamada Lake in which the race takes place is surrounded by lush greenery and scenic landscapes. You can also go on a leisurely sail through the backwaters and enjoy the race and as well as nature from different viewpoints.
Witness the incredible teamwork and athleticism.
Prepare yourself to experience the adrenaline rush, as the heavy competition, synchronized rowing, sheer strength and teamwork will leave you highly excited and awe-inspiring.
Submerge yourself into the celebration
The traditional music and the song (Vanchipaatu) prove music could turn a vigorous competition into a celebration for both the competitors and the audience.
I bet that you cannot stand idly after hearing the electrifying tunes played by the musical team on the spot. You will be unconsciously made to sing, dance, cheer up and celebrate the event, even when you are not a person from Kerala.
Be a member of a wholesome celebration–
You may be a little tired or hungry during the event so you can jog into the mini carnival hub that will be situated in the surroundings of the lake that offers relaxation like music, and dance performances. Soothens your appetite with a special must-try Kerala food like Onam Sadya, a traditional vegetarian meal served on banana leaf consisting of 26 dishes, and various other food that tastes like heaven. You can also rest or go on a leisurely walk in the surroundings, simultaneously experiencing the vibrant and joyful atmosphere that offers a memorable experience for visitors.
When and where to visit?
This event will be held on the 12th of the upcoming month of August 2023. Visitors are required to pre-book the tickets online to watch the event. Since it is a mass celebration that attracts various people from the world it might be tough to wait and get your passes.
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So never procrastinate and also never miss this wonderful opportunity of visiting Alappuzha especially, the Nehru trophy race. Explore the natural beauty, tradition, sport, entertainment, and celebration out of which you can frame an “unforgettable experience”.
Don’t miss out on this incredible experience! Plan your trip to Alappuzha in the state of Kerala and witness the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, where tradition, sport, and culture converge in perfect harmony.
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