|The Nehru Trophy Boat Race|
This trophy was later christened, 'Nehru Trophy'. The
first race was an ‘impromptu’ one held in honour of Panditji. On
that occasion Ten Snake boats were present and Nedubhagam Chundan
won the race.
In 1953 the boat race was not conducted. In order to commemorate
the occasion every year "Nehru Trophy Boat Race" is conducted
in all splendor by the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Society.
different kinds of country-boats like Iruttukuthy, Veppu and Churulan
also participate in the race; women and students also compete in
the events over a distance of 4850 ft. The beautiful scenery of
the race area together with the exciting snake-boat race, will ever
remain a cherished memory for the onlookers.
|THE STORY BEHIND BOATRACES|
The Rajas of Yore
He called all the boat architects in the land to his court and told them of his desire to have better and faster boats for the troops. After days of hard labor, a man who was reputed to be the best boat architect in Chempakasserry, Koduppunna Venkitanarayanan Asari, came up with a specimen which satisfied the raja’s requirements. It had speed, manoeuverability and capacity to carry 100 able-bodied warriors on board and its eel-like construction was most ideal for launching an ambush since it could be easily kept concealed behind the overhanging bushes on the river banks. The Asari was generously rewarded and in the subsequent battles, the Chempakasseri Raja emerged victorious.
The story goes on to tell how the defeated Kayamkulam Raja sent a spy to Chempakasserri to learn the secret of the new war boat. The spy, a handsome youth, succeeded in seducing Asari’s daughter. The girl’s mother was overjoyed by the prospect of getting him as her daughter’s bridegroom and persuaded her husband to teach him the construction of the boat.
Needless to say, the deceitful youth disappeared the moment he thought that he had learnt the secret. Asari was imprisoned by Chempakasserri Raja for treason. But he was released and showered with many honors when the snake boats built by the Kayamkulam Raja proved to be no match for the war boats of Chempakasserry in the next battle. The subtleties of the snake boat’s design are hard to pickup and even today it requires years of apprenticeship under a master boat architect before one could independently undertake the construction of this ancient boat.
When a village decides to have a new snake boat, a committee is formed to raise the Rs.6 lakhs it requires now to build the boat. The boat architect is summoned and the search for the “anjili” tree of the required size often takes the villagers to the high ranges of Kerala. As the snake boat takes shape out of the huge trunk, the ‘asari’ relies mainly on his instinctive estimates.
Of late, the
boat builders’ prime concern is to make the snake boat as
long as possible so as to seat more and more rowers for speed. The
Nedumbhagom snake boat recently entered the Guinness Book of Records
as the longest rowing boat in the world. But its 135 feet length
has since been overtaken by Vellankulangara snake boat, which is
140 feet long.
|HISTORY ABOUT BOAT RACES|
boat race is a sport that signifies excellent team spirit, integration
and amity of the people of this backwater country and is a great
occasion for excitement. It vividly portrays the life of a vibrant
races are celebrated as the festival of backwaters with all pomp
and splendor. In fact these water carnivals are inseparable from
the life of a community, which is dependent on boats for commuting
and communication in a water logged area. Perhaps snake boat race
would be the only sporting event in the world in which hundreds
of people participate in a competition. It stands as a symbol of
communal harmony; but at the same time it is also a competition
of muscle power.
|1. CHUNDAN VALLAM (SNAKE BOAT)|
The boats of Kerala are categorised and named as per their shapes, sizes and purposes. The Chundaanvallam is so called because of its pointed prow. The term snake boat indicates the shape of the stern which resembles the raised hood of a snake. The front end of this type of boat will be tapering in shape and the rear end will be highly elevated from the water level. It has a length of about 60-65 meters and a capacity to carry over a hundred to hundred and ten people during a race. The stern is majestically caparisoned and decorated with a flag and brass ornaments. Silken parasols are arrayed along the entire length of the boat. There will be almost 95 oarsman, 5 Amarakkar (Controllers) and 10 'Nilakkar' (persons supposed to enhance the vigour and enthusiasm of the participating oarsman). It has the semblance of a snake, while advancing in a competition and hence became popular as snake boats. These boats were the traditional battle vessels of Kerala.
|2. CHURULAN VALLAM (RACE BOAT)|
The Race Boats "churulan vallams" are boats having a capacity to acommodate about 45 persons and are designed as passenger boats.The ends of these types of boats are shaped as a Circular ring (Churul in Malayalam).
|3. VAIPU VALLAM|
'Vaipu' vallams are boats having a passenger capacity of about 40-45 persons. One end of the boat is always higher than the other end. These boats were originally meant to prepare food for the other vessels during war .
Iruttukuthy or Odi type of boats are designed for transportation during the night. The shape of the boat is suitable for speedy journey. The width of the boat is so designed as to avoid friction with water while moving. In olden days these boats were supposed to be used for piracy works.
|VANCHIPATTU (SONG OF THE BOATMAN)|
highly rhythmic songs were created to keep up the spirit of the
boatman. These songs were so framed and sung as to keep pace with
the movement of the oars and to keep alive their devotional, mythological
and rustic life styles. Every snake boat has about twenty-five singers
with their traditional percussion instruments.
length – 1400 M.
Total no. of team members- 111
preparations for this big event begins several weeks in advance:the
snake boats have to be smeared with sardine oil for a smooth passage
through the water, the best oarsmen have to be selected and finally
the practice session begins under the supervision of the senior most
oarsmen. Around 150 oarsmen, who would represent the village, take
the vow to observe strict abstinence and celibacy till the oars are
handed over to each of them. Feeding the oarsmen during the practice
sessions and on the day of the festival is done by the villagers themselves
or by the rich and wealthy who foot in the entire expenses incurred.
Even at the height of the caste system, the peculiar feature of these regattas was that the caste Hindus, Scheduled Castes, Christians and Muslims all sat in the same row for the feast symbolising the communal amity in Kuttanad. In fact, the Church has a traditional role in the celebrations at Champakkulam even though the water festival there is associated with a temple legend.