Named after Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held each year on the second Saturday of August, on the calm waters of Lake Punnamda.In 2024, owing to the devastating floods of Kerala, the race is scheduled on the 10th August. One of the most popular attractions of Kerala, this zealous carnival is attended by over 2 lakh people including locals as well as tourists coming here from all around the world.
During the festival, snake boats that are locally known as Chundan Vallam are decorated beautifully with flags and silk parasols. Traversing through the lake waters, the boats look captivating. With a capacity of carrying around 100 passengers, measuring between 60 – 65 m, these snake boats were originally used in battles.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race is not only an energetic carnival but is an important part of the history of Kerala. In the year 1952, when Pt. Nehru visited the state, he attended a snake boat and was highly impressed. He also announced a trophy for the winner of the boat race and this is how Nehru Boat Race competition was formed. The trophy that is given to the winner looks like a snake boat that is made from silver, on a wooden abacus that has Nehru’s words are inscribed just above his signature.
During the boat race, each boat carries 95 oarsmen, 10 nilakkar (cheerleaders) and, 5 amarakkar (controllers). Vanchipattu or energetic songs that have appealing rhythm are sung constantly by about 10 singers who also accompany the boat to keep the spirits high up. The songs sung by them are mainly mythological and religious in nature. Along with snake boats, other locally-customized boats such as Churulan, Iruttukuthy, and Vaipu also partake in the race. The practice and preparations Nehru boat race start a month before the date of the main event.
NOTE: In the south Indian state of Kerala, the dates of festival are decided as per the Malayalam calendar.