Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Zonkerala Articles -> Origin of Nehru Trophy and Legend of Boat Races
Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on the second Saturday of August every year, in Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, Kerala. This is one of the most popular boat races in Kerala and attracts a lot of tourists from different parts of India and abroad. Boat Races are the most colourful water sports of Kerala, most of the boat races like the Nehru Trophy Boat race, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Payippad Jalotsavam, Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali etc. are held during the Onam season, the most important festival of Kerala.
Origin of Nehru Trophy Boat Race :
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race was originated in 1952, on the occasion of the
visit of the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit. Jawaharlal Nehru to
Alapuzha. In the race witnessed by Nehru, 'Nadubhagom Chundan' stood
first. In the excitement of seeing the performance by the oarsmen,
Jawaharlal Nehru jumped into the ‘Nadubhagam Chundan’, forgetting all
security arrangements. The Prime Minister donated a silver trophy, which
is a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus. The trophy bears
his signature and the inscription "To the winners of the boat race, which
is a unique feature of community life in Travancore - Cochin." The trophy
is known as 'Nehru Trophy' later and is awarded to the winners of this
boat race every year.
The story of the boat races (Vallamkali) in Kerala goes back to 400 years
in the history of Kerala. The Rajas of the erstwhile kingdoms of
Chempakasseri (Ambalappuzha), Kayamkulam ,Thekkumkoor (Changanacherry) and
Vadakkumkoor (Kottayam) in the old Travancore area, frequently had wars
between them. All these places now comes under Alapuzha district of Kerala.
The Chempakasseri Raja and his troops suffered severe casualities in the
war they fought in the backwaters of Kuttanad. The Raja found out that the
defeat was because of the defects in his war boats.
The Raja summoned all the boat architects of his land and asked them to build new faster boats. The reputed architect of Chempakasseri, Koduppunna Venkitanarayanan Asari, built a new faster boat which had all the requirements the Raja specified. The boat had speed and it had the capacity to carry 100 warriors on board. In all the subsequent wars, the Chempakasseri Raja emerged victorious.
The Kayamkulam Raja who suffered defeat from the Chempakasseri Raja, appointed a spy to study the building of the boat from Koduppunna Venkitanarayanan Asari. The young, handsome youth seduced the architect's daughter and promised to marry her. The man was taught the construction of the boat by the Asari. The spy disappeared from the place,once he thought, he learned the secret behind the boats. He constructed the boats for Kayamkulam Raja, but the new boats proved no good, in the next war. The snake boat design is very difficult to learn. Even today, it requires many years of training under a master boat architect, before one could undertake a boat construction.