For the land of backwaters, Kerala, boats are an integral part of life. Hence, whether to observe a social ritual or to honor a visiting dignitary, holding a boat race has been a time-honoured practice. In 1952, the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was honoured by an impromptu boat race when he visited Alappuzha. PM Nehru was so thrilled by the sight that he promptly jumped into the winning boat throwing security concerns haywire. The boat Nadubhagam Chundan proceeded to the boat jetty carrying the Prime Minister.
On his return to Delhi, Nehru donated a Silver Trophy, which is a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus. The inscription on the trophy said "To the winners of the boat race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore Cochin." It bore the PM's signature. The trophy came to be known as the Nehru Trophy.
Since then, every year, indigenous boats of various categories, participate in the race, which is held on the second Saturday each August (Aug 12, 2017). But the star of the race are the elaborately snake boats with their curved hoods.
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place along the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha. Earlier open to men only, the race now sees enthusiastic participation from women rowers too.
Apart from watching the beginning or the conclusion of the race from the designated galleries, you can also buy a ticket for the viewing boats. Be prepared for sudden showers, deafening noise and a huge crowd.
Kochi International Airport is a little over an hour's from Alappuzha. One can also drive down from Kochi, Thiruvananathapurm, Kottayam, etc. For more detail and tickets, check http://nehrutrophy.nic.in