Kerala boat race enthralls thousands


Alappuzha (Kerala): Congress president Sonia Gandhi and an audience of thousands watched enthralled as oarsmen in boats of all shapes and sizes matched their strengths and skills at the 57th edition of the Nehru Boat Race that kicked off here Saturday at the pristine Punnamada Lake.

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Gandhi lit a lamp mark to mark the beginning of the competition and said that the event is “close to my family”.

In 1952 then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the state and a variety of boats accompanied him from Kottayam to Alappuzha.

The race’s origin was an impromptu event conducted in Nehru’s honour.

Nehru, who was thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen, jumped into a snake boat.

On returning to Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy, a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus with an inscription and his signature. This is the trophy that the winner in the snake boat category is awarded.

The current edition of the race has 16 snake boats and around 40 small boats participating in the various events.

“This is something marvellous. Believe me, I have been to several tourist places but I am yet to see an event which is so enthralling as this boat race,” said Bill Stevens from Britain.

The snake boat race is main tourist attraction because the length of the boat that varies from 120 to 140 feet with about 120 oarsmen.

The race has, over the years, become the curtain raiser for the tourist season in the state.

Speaking to IANS, Tomy Pulikattil, one of the organisers of the event, said that the economic recession had affected the arrival of foreign tourists.

“The increase in foreign tourist arrivals every year was considerable, but this time it was not there. But nevertheless it was much more than what many expected,” Pulikattil said.