Nehru Trophy International Boat Race – Part 2
Kuttanad is one of the key destinations on the Indian tourism map which is in a jubilant mood as its festival season has started. Right from now, it is the season of small and big country boat races, which is better known as the water festival.
It would touch its peak with the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, scheduled in the coming month of August. Now, giving a holiday to personal pains, people of Kuttanad are involving themselves with the water festivals. The end of the season is in October.
The history of the boat race started many centuries ago. The time of the birth of these boat races has not been specifically marked. However, a majority of historians favour it was started before King Marthanda Varma, who played a significant role in the history of Kerala.
He is known as the founder of the modern Travancore Kingdom, which consisted of places falling between Kochi up till Kanyakumari. Before the time of Marthanda Varma, southern Kerala was divided into four provincial countries.
They were Thekkumkoor, Vadakkumkoor, Kayamkulam and Chembakasserry. Each Provincial country had its own Navy. It was known as ‘Vallappada’ (Naval Army). The main recruitment method to the Naval Army was the rowing competition.
The rowers who proved their vigour, strength and ability were recruited to the Navy. Also, the Kings had allowed people to conduct such country festivals. The passage of time brought significant changes and a new form came in. It has now attained an international status.
The history of these current boat races has started from beyond at least two centuries onwards. Among old boat races and still existing are Champakkulam Moolam boat race, Payippad Chathayam boat race and Aranmula Uthrittathi Boat race. All these are related to the famous temples in Kerala. Champakkulam is related to the Ambalappuzha Sreekrishna Swami Temple.
The relation of Payippad festival is with the Harippad Subrahmaniya Temple and Uthrittathi boat race is related to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. All events begin with the Champakkulam Moolam boat race every year.
The other old prominent water festivals in Kerala are Kumarakom Chathayam boat race started in 1952 and the Neerettupuram Thiruvonam boat race started in 1957. Boats participating in the races are categorized as Chundan (Dragon), Veppu, Oodi and Churulan. Chundan is the main attraction of all boat races. The length of a Chundan boat is 38.25mtr. It can contain 110 rowers, 10 oarsmen, 9 additional rowers and one singer. The Veppu is a small size boat and made in the form of Chundan. During the ancient times when war broke out, the Veppu boats were escorted by the Chundan boats.
The purpose of Veppu boats was to provide cooks to make food for Navy men. It can carry more than thirty people at a time. The Veppu is a Malayalam term for cooking used in the English language. The front and back of the Oddy boats are alike. It was used during the Royal regime when Kings travelled by backwaters. Similarly, the front and back of Churulan boat are in a rolled model. It was also an escort boat during the times of the royal administration.
There are some rudimental measurements regarding the construction of boats, especially Chundan (dragon). Some prominent carpenters had created some measurements which were based on ancient manuscripts. Koduppunna Narayanan Asari, Nedumudi Govindan Asari and Changamkari Pappu Asari were the chief architects of Chundans.
Presently most measurements are accepted from the theories made by these deceased experts. Vanchippattu refers to singing during the time of boat race to stimulate rowers. Vanchippattu has a remarkable place in Malayalam history. Ramapurath Warrier was first among creators of Vanchippatt (boat song).
Contributed By: C. Radhakrishnan is an English Journalist and writes articles in National Dailies. He writes articles on topics such as history, politics, business, environment and tourism in Kerala. [email protected]
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