Alleppey is the centre for backwater cruises in Kerala. It has a large network of canals, which, passing through the town, provide its lifeline. It also has a long sandy beach. Allepey is 60 km from Ernakulam, 64 km from Cochin and 154 km from Trivandrum.
The annual races for the Nehru Trophy and other competitions are held on the second Saturday in August, this year on the 9th. For weeks before the big day, hopeful participants train for the selections process.
The boats are prepared, pujas offered and the excitement builds up towards the moment when it will be time for a spectacular display of skills.Different varieties of boats like chundan (snake boat); Iruttukuthi odi, fibre boats etc are used. Separate races held for men, women and children. Prior to the race the rich local cultural music and dance traditions are staged on the boats, which are taken out in a procession.
In earlier times the boats were used primarily for military purposes by the rajas of the region. Till the early 1950s the traditional boats continued to be maintained, but were used for ritual purposes. In 1952, when India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was on an official visit to the state he witnessed the race at Punnamade Lake in Alleppey with enthusiasm. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race, with the silver trophy in a Chundan Vallam (snake boat) shape to be won, has since become a very popular annual event for the Local populace and tourists alike.
The palm-fringed paradise that is Kerala, with its lush green tropical vegetations, provides the perfect backdrop for the excitement of the snake boat races unique to this state. Boat races and water carnivals are an integral part of Kerala’s social life and have been since the past 700 years. The canals and lagoons of the backwaters are ideal for the sport at this time of year, full as they are after the heaviest rains. Around fifty small and big water carnivals are conducted every year, mostly during the Onam season.