Punnamada lake, the venue of the fabled Nehru Trophy boat race has been a beehive of activities for the last few days as snake boats, each rowed by over 100 oarsmen in quick unison started their practice sessions, ahead of the grand competition on Aug 13. The last few days marked a surge in the number of tourists arriving at the Punnamada lake to witness this unique water sport.
The snake boat race is something exceptional to Kerala and the length of a snake boat varies from 120 feet to 140 feet and will have about 120 oarsmen, who will display a marvelous spectacle of rowing in unison well complemented by high pitched songs and resonant drum beats to add up to the mood. 16 snake boats and around 40 small boats will be participating this year in the 59th edition of the race, which is being sponsored by a single sponsor for over 2.50 Crore, which incidentally is the highest ever. Another highlight of this year’s event is that one of the snake boats of United Boat Club, Kainakary has roped in a group of 51 soldiers from the Madras Engineering Group in its team of oarsmen.
The boat race, which dates back to 1952 was held as an impromptu race in honour of the then Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who visited the state. Nehru, who was thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen had suggested to make it an annual event. 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, which is awarded to the winners in the snake boat race.
Preparations are in full swing and Alappuzha is getting braced up for the event, which is one of the most popular events in Kerala itinerary among tourists, including foreigners. So, make sure to be there to be part of this excepting spectacle, which is not seen anywhere else in India. It is interesting to note that it was featured in the online creative venture of the New Zealand community, the big idea, which shows its universal appeal and popularity.
Kuttanadu is where you can catch glimpses of rural Kerala, with sprawling paddy fields, the criss-cross of waterways and ducks swimming all around, fresh water fish being caught and sold, people transporting things in boats etc.
Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea!
- Sarojini Naidu, The Coromandel Fishers
Travelling along the National Highway (NH 47) to Ernakulam in the morning, I usually happen to come across fisher-folk going about their day-to-day activities. Starting from Neendakara in Kollam to Purakkad and Cherthala in Alappuzha district, I come across lots of fishermen and women who are busy, setting off to the high seas, transporting fish from one place to another, collecting ice from ice plants (ice-manufacturing units) for preservation, selling fish et al.
Here we go, with a compilation of photographs that I took today morning, on my way to our Karmakerala office from my home town Varkala, a journey that usually takes me about four hours. I had come across some other things too, like fishermen on the way taking a break and having tea and chatting at a wayside tea-shop, fresh fish being sold at roadside markets etc. But since I had to be at office on time, I couldn’t get them all. Here’s what I got, ‘the day’s catch’ for me!!!
These are not just photographs that capture the Kerala landscape on a rainy morning. These are pictures that should make you sit up and think…
Thoughts that flash across my mind:
*Such vast farmlands and we are forced to buy rice brought in from neighbouring states, packaged and sometimes even adulterated and coloured, sold to us at exorbitant prices…
*Paddy fields disappearing from the Kerala landscape and flats taking their place in urban and semi-urban areas. So, are they going to come up with skyscrapers here too in Thakazhy? Can’t say…
*How far would the future generation be able to identify with Thakazhy Sivasankara Pillai’s acclaimed novel ‘Randidangazhi’? Well, maybe we got to preserve such photographs for posterity…
*What would poets and lyricists write about in future when we will be having paddy fields just for namesake and rivers and lakes all drying up?
I just wish we all- each one of us- see this as something personal and sit up and think of doing something, rather than blaming others…Better late than never…
We can do it! We can preserve and conserve it all, for our sake, for the sake of posterity…
The Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute issue is finally set for verdict tomorrow, on Thursday September 30, 2010. The Allahabad High Court will be making the historic judgement on this issue that has caused agony to our motherland. This issue has its own effect in our little state Kerala.
Although a small state in appearance, our state has contributed big in creating terrorists in and around the country. Above all our beautiful state is known for creating a ruckus of even the smallest issues happening at the international level. It’s no wonder that the state government is on alert!
Prevention is better than cure: Kerala government is ensuring tight security throughout the state as a precautionary measure against the background of the verdict on Ayodhya case.
Some of the security measures taken include-
2. Ban orders came into force in Ernakulam district from this morning.
3. Restrictions on organising of marches, meetings and demonstrations are to be declared in other districts.
4. About 30,000 policemen are proposed to be deployed by midnight to enforce the orders and maintain peace.
5. Preventive arrests are also likely.
6. Special security is being extended to important places of worship, railway stations and bus stands.
7. Armed reserves have positioned in district centres.
8. The media is warned against speculating the outcome of the Ayodhya dispute until they have a copy of the issues of the judgement by the Court and the operational part of the order.
Kerala seems to be ready to face any untoward incident that may crop up post the verdict. The Allahabad High Court announced that there are plans on making the judgment available to the people via the internet.
Let us hope the verdict finally brings peace to all and allow the Gods to rest peacefully in our ‘God’s Own Country’.
As Onam, Kerala’s own cultural celebration is on the threshold of each and every Malayalee, Alappuzha gets ready to welcome Onam with the grand water Olympics on August 14 2010. Kerala is going to witness the 58th Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Punnamada Lake. Honourable President, Prathibha Patil will be the chief Guest of the event. The cultural events will start today at 2 pm with a spectacular cultural procession in Alappuzha town.
This time there are 60 boats including 19 snake boats for the boat race. The race will be conducted in four heats with 16 snake boats and in the B grade section three Snake Boats will mark their participation. The races will commence at 3.15pm on August 14. Activities by Navy and a spectacular cultural float will take place during intervals. Women from foreign countries will not take part in this year’s procession.
The ticket charges start from 2000(Tourist Gold), 1000(Tourist Silver), 500, 300, 200, 150, 100, 50 accordingly. Ticket charges that are less than 500 will have a separate pavilion in the west side of the lake. If you wish to watch this historical event, get tickets from R.T.O Office, and Village offices that have ticket counters from morning 10 till evening 5. On the day of the race there will be separate ticket counters at DTPC Office, RTO Office and Boat Jetty.
Last year Champakulam Chundan won the Nehru Trophy. This year, the captain of the winning boat will receive a certificate signed by the President.
A brief history about the Nehru Trophy Boat race:
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, is held on the second Saturday of August every year, and is the most competitive and popular of the boat races. On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, the tranquil lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two lakh people, including tourists from abroad, present only to watch this spectacular event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is something to be celebrated for months to come.
The major attraction of the boat race is the competition of chundanvallams or snake boats. Chundans (snake boats) are an impressive sight, measuring over 100 feet in length, with a raised prow. The main highlight of this electrifying boat race is the 100 feet long boats that are decorated beautifully by the local craftsmen especially for this event. These boats can accommodate 100 people at a time. Usually the musicians and singers accompany the oarsmen to keep the participants with high spirits.
Kerala is famous worldwide with tourists who are looking for a serene beautiful place to enjoy their holidays. But now Kerala is eying ‘Movie-spot tourism‘.
With the recent release of the multilingual movie ‘Ravan‘ in Hindi,Tamil(Ravanan) and Telugu(‘Villain’) by the famous film director Mani Ratnam casting Abhishek Bachan, Aiswarya Rai Bachan and Vikram, the location have caught the attention of movie loving audience throughout India. And, almost all are taken up by the well done cinematography and the backdrop of the entire movie. People who know little about Kerala and haven’t visited the state before, have started to ask where was the movie shot from? Even Malayalees won’t believe that the movie was shot near Athirappally and Vazhachal waterfalls and from the forest here.
Kerala Tourism department has now stuck on the idea to make a campaign with the film ‘Ravana’. There are many films from other languages that have shot from Kerala’s different scenic locations. Hollywood movie ‘Nishabdh‘ casting Amitabh Bachan and Jiya Khan was partially shot from Munnar, since then Munnar is famous among all the Hindiwallahs. So are the movies ‘Bombay’(Song-Uyire ..uyire from Bakel Fort-Kasargod),’Dilse‘ from Alappuzha, Vinnei Thandi Varuvaya (partially from Kuttanad-Alappuzha) and many more movies that I forget.
Anyway, Kerala Tourism Department is thinking for various ways to improve its tourism and the inflow of tourists to the state. The countries like Switzerland, New Zealand and Malaysia have started the trend called ‘movie spot tourism’ long back. Movie Spot Tourism is enlisting some major locations as shooting locations where the shooting set will get all the facilities without any difficulties. It will in turn make those locations famous and in a way tourism campaign through the movie.
In Kerala, it needs to cross many barriers and face restrictions if anyone needs to shoot in forests or in other protected areas. So, Kerala Tourism is also planning to start up such a trend called ‘Movie Spot Tourism’, where they will make a list of major locations that needs attention and then the movie sets are allowed entry by paying a certain amount as fee.
A proposal brought by the global Keralites association – Keraleeyam, which has its roots in Britain, to showcase Kerala’s Snake Boat Race before Queen Elizabeth on London’s Thames River next month seems to be lagging due to the insufficient funds for the transportation of the crew and the boat.
The organisation-Keraleeyam brought this proposal with an interest in showcasing the race as part of a trial run of the inaugural ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Queen Elizabeth II is expected to watch the event on July 8th. The Kerala State Govt. had sanctioned a sum of Rs.1 Crore for the event, but this seems to be insufficient. The organisers have made superstar Suresh Gopi the brand ambassador for the event. Suresh Gopi and his Fans Association have agreed to collect a sum of Rs.20 Lakhs which is required to be paid for the Shipping Corporation only for the transportation of Snake Boat to London. Money is still required for the remaining funds and visa for the 120 oarsmen. Kerala have sought the financial help from the Central Government towards this purpose. “If we can’t make it happen this time, we will do it next year,” says the unchallenged actor Suresh Gopi.
The length of a snake boat made out of ‘anjili wood’ varies from 120 to 140 feet. If the snake boat finally makes it to London, then after the event it would be gifted to be placed in a museum there.
The Snake Boat Race, which is part of Kerala’s culture and is annually conducted as Nehru Trophy Boat Race is an event that have raised interest and spirit of Keralites as well as foreigners. The origin of the race dates back to 1952 when an impromptu event was conducted in honour of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was visiting the state. Nehru was so thrilled by the performance. 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 trophy is given away every year to the winner of the boat race held at Alappuzha.
If this cultural event of our small state Kerala could make it to present for the trial run next month, it will be something that we Keralites can take pride of.
After the floating cafes and restaurants, a mall that floats is the latest addition to the speckled life along the backwaters. A huge hit among the tourists and a handy shop at their doorsteps for the local community where they can replenish their daily ration, this shopping mall run by the state government agency of consumerfed has become a huge hit. The mall is set up on a boat that floats in the backwaters of the low-lying Kuttanadu area of Alappuzha district.
The floating Triveni Super Store, which sells everything a home needs including refrigerators and TV sets at subsidised rates, is the brainchild of state Cooperative Minister G Sudhakaran,” an employee of state government-run Consumerfed, which runs the mall said.
The boat is well stocked with almost all the items that you may need in your daily life. From grains to perfumes to health drinks and shampoos, this mall also takes orders for home appliances and gadgets like TV and refrigerator, which will be supplied at a later date at subsidized rates. Provisions like rice, wheat and sugar are sold at 10-15% below the market rates. It caters to more than 100,000 people in 12 panchayats of Alappuzha and it docks at 53 villages along the backwaters, which are accessible only by boats. The arrival timings are announced beforehand so that the villagers do not miss the boat.
The mall remains open from 8 am to 6 pm and 20 people are allowed on board at a time. The mall has an average daily sales of Rs 60,000, which goes up during festivals like Onam and Christmas. The mall, designed by the University of Cochin’s naval department was built at a dock in Kochi at a cost of Rs 50 lakh. The boat is powered by solar energy that lights up the boat and run the billing machines.
The floating mall has become an inseparable part of the backwater life and to meet the demand from the local community, Consumerfed is building two more floating malls.
The Alappuzha-Kollam luxury boat service of the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has been re-launched yesterday, February 9th, with the State Coir and Cooperation Minister G. Sudhakaran flagging off the service. The luxury boat service, which is sure to attract tourists once again, has halts at Thottappally , Thrikkunnapuzha Coir Village , Aayiramthengu, Amruthapuri and Chavara too.
State Transport Minister Jose Thettayil has said that the State Water Transport Department had launched 14 new steel service boats in the last one year and five more would be launched before March this year. The forthcoming 2010-2011 State budget will have provisions for 13 more boats, he reminded.
The Alappuzha-Kollam inland water route has always been one of the most sought-after routes by those who reach Kerala for backwater tourism, especially as it covers almost the whole of Alappuzha and Kollam districts and gives one the full feel of what life along the backwaters of Kerala is.
The trip is one of the best things that visitors to Kerala can enjoy and cherish in their memories for ever.
Good news indeed for the people of Kerala as well as for visitors!!