The Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race is Kerala’s most popular sporting event. Organized annually on the second Saturday of August in Alleppey, this friendly competition was first organized in 1950s. The snake boat race was organized on the visit of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. The first prime minister of India was visiting Kerala and to make his visit enjoyable, a friendly competition was held. Being impressed by the magnificent event, he made it an annual race for a trophy.
The Nehru Boat Race is a very challenging boat race. Locally renowned as Vallam Kali or Vallamkali, it literally means boat play/game. The race has its followers worldwide, and is organized in the Punnamada Lake in the Alappuzha area of the state. The snake boat race is an enjoyable event. The fresh waters, the pleasant weather and added top it the biggest event of Kerala, it surely will be your favorite memory of the state.
The snake boats are ancient designs of swift vessels which were used for military purposes and swift movements on the backwaters. Locally known as Chundan Vallams, the snake boat are of almost 135 feet in length. Shaped like an angry snake, the boat curves to a height of fifteen to twenty feet. The prow is pointed and stands four feet above the water with its glistening brass embellishments. The main steer man of the boat stands here with specially made long oars. The efficient handling of the oar establishes the speed of the boat and its balance. A crew of more than hundred men are boarded in a boat.
On the day of the Snake Boat Race, a splendid procession is organized. The melody of rhythmic boat songs or Vanchipattu work permeates the air. The rambunctious crowds cheer for their favorite teams. Every village has its own boat. Every fit-bodied individual participates. Some oarsmen prepare throughout the year. The snake boats are slicked with oil so that they effectively glide on the waters. The ambiance is frenzied with excitement.
The winner of the boat race is awarded with the Nehru trophy. The trophy looks similar to a snake boat made up of silver, on wooden abacus on which his kind words are inscribed above his signature.