Alleppey Snake Boat Race

At one time, boats were the only mode of transport in the backwaters. The advent of roads changed that. Much later, tourism heralded another change rice boats metamorphosed into houseboats, and the slender snake boats, or chundan vallom, used by local kings to ferry soldiers during waterfront wars, spawned a new sport, the boat race. Over 100 ft long, the raised prow of this boat stands 10 ft above water and resembles a snake’s hood. Boat races are occasions of great excitement and entertainment that allow the oarsmen to prove their awesome physical prowess to the thousands gathered to watch. Most of these races are held in the water-logged Kuttanad region of Alappuzha.
As one story goes, when Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952, four traditional chundan valloms went to receive him. A mock snake boat race was also organised. Nehru was so fascinated that once he returned to Delhi, he sent a gleaming silver trophy for a boat race, duly named after him. Since then, the race has become a most prestigious one. Even today, boats race a one and a half kilometre stretch in four columns. The annual Nehru Trophy boat race begins during the harvest festival of Onam in August. Powered by over 100 muscular oarsmen, the slender crafts streak across the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, accompanied by feverish drumbeats and the cheers of thousands of spectators.
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