Monthly Archives: July 2011

Nehru Trophy Boat Race – Kerala’s Water Olympics!

It is indeed an Olympics of its own right… Not just a boat race, but sort of a mega sports event featuring gigantic boats alongwith a large team – unmatched in every respect in the whole world… That’s the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race of Kerala, South India.

Kerala tours

A colourful sports carnival that takes place on the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha (Venice of the East), on Second Saturday of August every year, Nehru Trophy Boat Race is known for its thrilling competition and mass appeal.

The most striking feature of this event is the Snake Boat, locally known as ‘Chundan Vallam’ – A huge wooden boat over a 100 feet  in length and with a raised prow adding to its majestic appearance. A Snake Boat can carry around 100-120 rowers.

A little flashback…

Given the name ‘Snake Boat’ by the erstwhile colonial powers, perhaps due to its dazzling movement thro’ the waters like a snake; this wooden marvel has long been associated with the history of Kerala. During the medieval era when Navy ruled supreme, snake boats played a decisive role in the victory of many local kingdoms that existed in Southern Kerala region.

Origin of Nehru Trophy Boat Race…

In the palm-fringed, water-logged areas of Alappuzha and Kuttanad, various models of wooden boats were the prime vehicles of transportation since ancient times. The 1st Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Kerala (which was Thiru-Kochi State, then) in 1952. In the honour of Prime Minister, the first unofficial Snake Boat Race was conducted. Out of several contestants – each featuring a snake boat with 100 odd teams – a team named ‘Nadubhagom Chundan’ came first.

Jawaharlal Nehru was so impressed by the fast paced boats and their oarsmen’s skills; that he insisted on a ride on the winning boat, soon after the race. He was given a rousing ceremonial farewell in the Snake Boat. Later, Nehru donated a Silver Trophy (a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus) with his signature. Thereafter, people of Alappuzha began to organize and conduct Snake Boat Race every year, in the fond memory of the then-Prime Minister. This soon came to be known as ‘Nehru Trophy Boat Race’.

Over the years, the Nehru Trophy race has grown to be the most competitive and popular of all the boat races in Kerala. For the people of Alappuzha / Kuttanad, this is more like their national festival. Organizing and conducting this event is a matter of pride and joy for them.

The preparations for this celebrated occasion begin several weeks in advance. Snake boats are smeared with sardine oil for smooth passage through water … Very best oarsmen are selected … Then, under the supervision of the senior-most oarsmen, vigorous practice sessions commence …

Each snake boat accommodates 100+ rowers sitting in two rows and 5 other oarsmen. There are other group of people standing in between; singing the ‘Vanchi-pattu’ (boat songs with hymns) which gives a rhythm for the rowers to charge forward, all-together.

This synchronized way of rowing needs long and devoted training and inherent aptitude. Team work is so important that even a silly neglected act of one participant can lead a boat to lose the race.

During the preparations, each ward in the village and rich individuals takes their turn in feeding the would-be participants, which each & everyone does proudly. All folks, whatever be their religion / status, stand as a single entity to make the approaching race a grand success.

On the day of the Snake Boat race, the venue ‘Punnamada Lake’ will be brimming with excitement. Hundred-Thousands of people, locals & tourists, assemble to watch the race.

The 1400+ meters long water-race-course is divided into various tracks for the conduct of this competition. As the race starts, these big water vessels rip through the tracks, resembling quick snakes… Oarsmen splash the oars in unison with the rhythmic chants of ‘Vanchi-pattu’ and drum beats… The backwaters get ‘electrified’ … Spectators go wild with frenzy …

As the boats race to finishing point, the atmosphere will be beyond words !!!

Unparalleled in thrills, Alappuzha’s (Kerala) most important sports event is now regarded as the greatest water sport show in the world.


For those who want to witness this “largest team sports in the world”, here are a handful of tour packs to choose from …


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Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple – Richness of royal legacy!

Kerala tour packages

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the most celebrated and legendary Temple in Kerala’s state capital
, is Thiruvananthapuram nowadays  constantly hitting the headlines of national & international newspapers & media alike on account of the vast treasures discovered in its secret chambers. As countless debates continue about the treasure values (estimated to be in many billion-dollars) and the temple being the richest in not only India but all over the world, an insight into this sacred shrine’s flashback unearths the time-tested unshaken bond between a bygone royal dynasty and their state shrine.

Looking Back…

Regarded as one among the holiest 108 Vaishnava Thirupa (sacred abodes of Lord Vishnu) in India, the exact age of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is still debated. This temple is mentioned in several ancient Hindu ‘puranas’ (epics) though officially recorded facts dated back to 7th / 8th centuries. Legends states, Anantha Padmanabha – the deity of this Temple – was originally at the Anantha Padmanabha Lake Temple in Kasargod
district, North Kerala. A tryst with an ardent devotee, Sage Vilwamangalam, saw the Lord shifting his base to the Southern zone.

The present Temple was built in the forested land Ananthan-kadu. In due course of time the city was known by the Temple’s name – ‘Thiru Anantha Puram’ meaning the ‘Land of Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy’. It was the chief shrine of then-dynasty Aayi Kings, predecessors of Venad Kings. Before the Venad rulers gained foothold the Temple was under ‘Ettera-yogam’ – Association of Ettu Veettil Pillamaar, a powerful group of 8 feudal lords that held sway over Venad in 15th – 16th centuries. With the local feudal lords at one end and emerging European trading powers at the other, the domestic situation was in turmoil and it was left over to Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma the then- crown-prince to bring the situation under Kerala control. His accession to the throne was an eventful chapter in
History which saw the annihilation of feudal powers and checking of colonial traders’ advances in the South.

Widely considered as the valiant & powerful King of his generation, Marthanda Varma had high regards for Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. During his reign (1729-58) he conquered neighboring provinces and turned the tiny Venad into a powerful Kingdom of Travancore. After firmly establishing his Kingdom, Marthanda Varma reconstructed & enlarged Padmanabhaswamy Temple and, performed the exemplary act of ‘Thrippadi danam’ – dedicating his Kingdom & wealth to the Lord and rule on behalf of the Lord’s will – to Sree Padmanabha in 1750 AD. Thereafter, Travancore Kingdom was regarded as the sole property of Lord Padmanabhaswamy and the King became Padmanabha-dasa alias ‘In service of Lord Sree Padmanabha’.

Marthanda Varma and his succeeding Travancore Kings considered their assets as offerings to Lord Padmanabha. Even the small kingdoms under Travancore considered the Lord as their master and offered their valuables to the Temple as tokens of devotion & regards. Apart from the Travancore Kings, who wholeheartedly bestowed so many priceless assets (gold, silver, diamonds …) to their State Temple, several Royals from different parts of India and foreign rulers too, donated countless invaluable souvenirs to Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The reigning King(s) safely guarded the Temple’s treasures and ruled without eyeing their dizzy value, as they considered it as God’s own property for which it’s their duty to protect. In fact, as they treated themselves as the servants of the Lord, Travancore Kings never wore a Crown (except for a brief time during their swearing-in ceremony). Such was the Travancore Royal clan’s bonding with Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Even old testimonies state, the Kings served their people without making use of any Temple’s treasures and even without imposing unnecessary taxes  – a sharp contrast to the present governing system of Kerala where the word ‘corruption’ is more like a brand name!

The rituals and customs introduced by King Marthanda Varma were voluntarily followed by all the successors to the throne of Travancore… until the Kings lost their authority with the formation of Independent India in 1947. However the last reigning King of Travancore Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma continued his duties & services to the Temple, strictly in accordance with earlier customs, till his death and now the Temple administration is handled by the present head of the royal clan, Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma.

Temple Specialties…

The royal legacy of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple cannot be complete without mentioning its unique features. The Temple architecture itself is one-of-a-kind. Distinctly different from traditional Kerala architectural style, Padmanabhaswamy Temple showcases a nice blend of Dravidian-Kerala structural combination, which can be found nowhere else in the state.

The Temple complex is flanked by ‘Padma Theertham’ (means, Lotus Pond), a sacred pond which is considered as old as the Temple itself. On the north-east side of the pond, lies a cave inside which a small Lord Shiva Temple is located. The most interesting feature of this pond is a raised stone at its center, which is believed to bear the footmarks of Lord Vishnu (Sree Padmanabhaswamy). Devotees cleanse themselves in Padma Theertham before proceeding for Temple worship. Also they feed the fishes in this pond as a mark of devotion.

Inside the Temple complex, what stand amongst the numerous sculptural beauties are the ‘the Bali Peeda Mandapam’ and ‘Mukha Mandapam’, two artistically sculptured halls dating back to the era of King Marthanda Varma. Another notable feature here is the ‘Navagraha Mandapa’, where the ceiling displays the Navagrahas (Nine Planets, which according to Hindu philosophy signifies different stages in human life) – something rarely seen typical Kerala Temples.

The chief deity, Lord Anatha Padmanabha (Lord Vishnu in a reclining position on the Serpant Anantha), is consecrated in a unique way. The 18 feet long idol is built with 10,008 precious saligram stones, and can be viewed through three doors – Lord’s head and his right hand, hanging over the Shivalingam, thro’ first door, the middle portion with Lord Brahma seated on a lotus (which comes from the navel of Lord Vishnu) thro’ the second door and, Lord’s feet thro’ the third door.

As with the ancient legendary Temples around the world, Padmanabhaswamy Temple too has got its own share of distinct murals and wood-works. For the people who throng to the Temple at all times, it’s a feast for eyes as well as mind.

With the recent discovery of Padmanabhaswamy Temple’s immense treasure trove led to a new twist over the Temple affairs. The legal battles for Temple management go on and people continue to ponder over the fate of the treasure… Whatever be the outcome; staunch devotees are certain that Lord Sree Padmanabhaswamy continues to grace his subjects and Thriuvananthapuram (and Kerala) will remain God’s Own Country forever as the ‘Land of Sree Padmanabhaswamy’, to be precise the.