Kerala all set for Nehru Trophy Boat race, Sonia Gandhi to be chief guest

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Kumarakom (Kottayam) (Kerala), Aug.6 (ANI): The rivers and lakes of Kerala that are filled due to monsoon rains will soon come alive with boat races.

As the race season draws near, boat clubs in Kerala are preparing for the busy race calendar.

A new snake boat named "Illikulam Chundan" was launched recently in Kumarakom, a tourist hotspot, about 46 kilometres (29 miles) from the main city of Kochi.

Despite the drizzle, a huge crowd lined up on the banks of the Kumarakom lake to see the 'beauty' make a splash.

The boat was introduced into the water after the traditional pujas.

Under construction for a year, the snake boat will have 111 people on board, which includes 95 oarsmen and a 16 member orchestra who will cheer their team to propel the boat ahead of their rivals.

It's worth its mention that snake boats are built very rarely now a days, partly because of the lack of skilled workers. It sees the convergence of the skills of carpenters and metal workers.

The 132-feet marvel was built by Uma Maheswaran, a snake boat builder. His father Kozhimukku Narayanan Asari had built some of the great snake boats which won top prizes in several races .

"Illikulam Chundan" was built with 1250 cubic feet of wood, 350 kilograms of iron and 35 kgs of brass. The decorative motifs on the bow are made of bronze and copper.

Saju Jaboy, a local race enthusiast, has had the boat built in memory of his father. It cost him 10 million rupees (209,000 dollars).

"The people of Kumarkom did not have a boat of their own to compete in the Nehru Trophy Boat race. It is because of this I commissioned this Chundan Vallom (snake boat). It is also the first new Chundan Vallom to be built in Kottayam district," said Saju Jaboy, owner of Illikulam Chundan.

Jaboy said it is also a tribute to the famed oarsmen of Kumarakom who had scripted the success of many raising teams. He is confident that his boat 'Illikulam Chundan" will win the top prize at the prestigious Nehru Trophy boat race to be held on Saturday (August 8).

"The oarsmen of Kumarakom have worked for the victory of several boats. Their participation has helped many to win the Nehru Trophy several times. Especially Karukachal and Payyipadan. The Kumarakom Boat Club and Kumarakom town Boat Club have secured hatricks for Payyipadan. Kumarakom team is in fine form and we hope to win," said Jaboy.

The most awaited event of the race calendar is the Nehru Trophy Boat race which takes place in neighbouring Alapuzha district on the second Saturday of August annually.

Competitions are held in several categories for small and big boats, but the most important event is the "Chundan Vallom" or Snake Boat race.

Fifty nine boats including 17 snake boats are expected to vie for the top honours this year.

The race witnesses foreign participants as well. A group of women of different nationalities residing in the UAE has already arrived in Kerala to take part in the biggest water carnival of India.

Fascinated by the impromptu race held for him in 1952, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had donated a rolling trophy to be awarded to the winner of the race in the snake boat category.

After Jawaharlal Nehru's visit 56 years ago, another member of his family is expected to be the chief guest at this year's Nehru Trophy Boat Race.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to arrive in Alapuzha on Saturday (August 8) along with a host of Central ministers. (ANI)

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