The Vallam Kali Boat Race is held every year in the Punnamada lake of Alleppy district, Kerala. Vallam Kali in the local language means boat race. This tradition of boat race here has been prevalent for many centuries.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Chundan Vallam Kali
The major attraction of this event is Chundan Vallam Kali, meaning Snake Boat Race. When these boats move fast, they seem like huge crawling snakes in water.
Chundan Vallam Kali, Snake Boat Race
Nehru as Chief Guest
In 1952, the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru was the chief guest at the event. Nehru thoroughly enjoyed sailing in a snake boat.
He gave a special trophy to be awarded to winner of the competition.
Nehru presenting the trophy on the occasion of Boat Race, 1952
The current Nehru Trophy of the Boat Race
From then on, this event is popularly known as the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, conducted on the second Saturday of every August.
Apart from the Chundan Vallam, Snake Boats, the other boats of this event are Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam, Kochu Vallam and Churulan Vallam.
The preparations for this event are made atleast two months before. A selection process is conducted to choose the best oarsmen who would represent their respective villages in the event. The practice sessions are held many weeks in advance. Arrangements are made with people who would like to contribute towards feeding the participants and the masses during the event.
The whole race course is about 1370 metres, divided into many tracks in the lake for the competition.
One of the specialities of this event is that, people of all communities participate, bringing about communal amity.
The festival begins with a procession of a variety of snake boats. The numerous beaded umbrellas are held aloft in each boat. The different patterns of these umbrellas give a colourful look to the lake.
Vallam Kali Snake Boat procession
Many aspects of the cultural heritage of Kerala is depicted, with artists performing kathakali, theyyam, panchavadyam, and padayani.
After the inaugural function, the snake boats are lined up at the starting point of the race. Roars from crowd are heard when the go ahead is given for the race.
The Vallam Kali Event
Each snake boat races through hissing like a snake, with crowds cheering up their respective village participants.
All through the event, many people from different parts of the state come together and make this a grand event in Kerala.
A scene from Vallam Kali Boat Race