Saturday, August 12

69th Nehru Trophy Boat Race 2023

69th Nehru Trophy Boat Race 2023


The Nehru Trophy Boat Race on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, held on the second Saturday of August every year, is the most competitive and popular of the boat races. On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, the tranquil lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two lakh people, including tourists from abroad, coming to watch the event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is something to be celebrated for months to come.

The major attraction of the boat race is the competition of snake boats chundanvallams or snake boats.Chundans (snake boats) are an impressive sight, measuring over 100 feet in length, with a raised prow. They were called snake boats by the former colonial rulers, who based the name on a native boat found in Norway,although Kerala's Chundans bear little resemblance to their European namesakes.


The history of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is associated with the visit of late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India to Alappuzha. He chanced a trip from Kottayam to Alappuzha by boat, through water logged Kuttanad. A pageantry of boats accompanied him on the trip.

The first race was an impromptu once conducted in 1952 in honor of Panditji who visited that race of snake boats, Nadubhagam Chundan stood first. Panditji, who was thrilled and excited in the performance of the oarsmen, jumped into the Nadubhagam Chundan, forgetting all security arrangements.

The boat proceeded to the boat jetty carrying the Prime Minister.On his return to Delhi in December 1952, Nehru donated a Silver Trophy, which is a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus.The trophy bears the following inscription above his signature.

"To the winners of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore Cochin."
This trophy later came to be known as Nehru Trophy, and in fond memory of great Panditiji, the people of Alappuzha celebrate the Nehru Trophy Boat Race every year.


A beautiful golden 'Mandapom' under the Manro lamp at Aryad. It is exquistely decorated. Artistically laid up seating arrangements and a temporary platform and pavilion are set up.

The Vembanad Lake in front of the Mandapom. Eight tracks, each of 30 meters width marked in the lake. Bamboo poles laid in the one mile long distance for this. Special boats, motor launches and big county crafts in line. The sons of Kuttanad are in ecstasy.

It is time for the race. A great boom is heard. Eight snake boats (Chundan Valloms) darted forward in lighting speed, marking the beginning of the race. Pandit Nehru watches the spectacular sight through the binoculars. Like a child who cannot control its ecstasy, he jumped up and down. He was greatly thrilled. 

As the race boats neared the pavilion, the esteemed guest got on his chair. "There .. Comes .." , said he, holding his grand-children Rajeev and Sanjay. As the waves of joy dashed in the little minds, Nehru asked his daughter "Indu, can u see well"? She nodded.

The boats were nearing the finishing point. The sight of equal forces vying for supremacy was a sight to be watched. The mind boggling affairs made Nehru forget himself. He began dancing to the rhythm of the paddlers. The banks of the lake were immersed in loud clapping. The rhyme and rhythm of Vanchipattu (Boat songs) filled the entire atmosphere.