Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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Nehru Trophy Boat Race,Alleppey,Kerala

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For a day, she had shed her serene attire. The tranquility she usually showed was missing today. The blue blanket she adorned looked unusually gorgeous on her. The blanket stretched to either side, beyond what my eyes could figure. The coconut trees that dotted her banks were swinging in a state of ecstasy.Even the ripples were high and danced in tandem. The tiny waves soothed the stone walls that formed the banks. The clouds smiled at her as if they shared a secret chemistry. Punnamada, was at her best.

Here was the celebration of Kuttanad. A celebration, that erased all the differences created by caste and religion. The boats came from various parts of Kuttanad and around. It was a clash of prestige. It was a show of strength. Only one thing mattered, winning the trophy for one’s village. The 57th Nehru Trophy Boat Race was just hours away. Unlike other days, the quaint inlets and creeks that connect the villages of Alleppey, were not buzzing with activity. The banks of Punnamada were encroached upon by the villagers.

The 4 tracks were laid. Practice sessions were in full swing moving in all possible directions. Speed boats and others carrying tourists, police and organizers zoomed across Punnamada. The high energy was evident in the air. The people from across villages were arriving to see their boat winning the show of speed.

We realized the pavilions were not the place to watch the race. Being one in the crowd could tell us how charged the environs were, nothing else would. Almost everyone was high spirited. Folk songs and aarpoo irroos could be heard non-stop from all directions. Snake Boats (Chundan Vallom) were long, some long enough to shy away from being captured in a single frame. The boats were Hindu and Christian, but the oarsmen had no religion. They sang in unison praising Hindu or Christian gods.

When the race was on, my ears could capture the sounds of the boat names, and their history from someone or other in the euphoric crowd. It was more like a running commentary. Karichal, Kumarakom, Kainakari, Karuvatta,Chambakulam….. Vepp A Grade, Iruttukuthy A Grade,Churulan and so on. I could get so many of these names around me.The crowd was now thrown into a frenzy.Many moved from the banks to water.The cops were in action shooing them off the race tracks,not that they could do much.

The effort of every village that has gone into arranging a boat for them is worth commending. Think about shoe string budgets and small time sponsors like some Gulf Malayalee or a mobile operator. The invasion of brands was evident, but as long as they bring in money to the race, who cares! Not only were they on the participating boats, but also on boats parked to act as stationary hoardings (on water).

This show of camaraderie, competition, enthusiasm is more than a vignette of Kuttanad’s village life. The rhythm of the oarsmen, the oars propelling the boat in unison, the songs sung to pump up their spirits, everything has conquered Punnamada yet again. They will continue to do it, for years to come.

I was live tweeting the #ntbr09

Some scenes from the boat race: [CLICK on the images for bigger view]  {Scroll down for some videos}

Some videos from the race. (If you are a Malayalee, do not miss the first two)

[How to reach: Alleppey(also known as Alappuzha) by Air(nearest Airport is Cochin), by Train(nearest station is Alleppey/Alappuzha) or by road(well connected by road) More info

NTBR(Nehru Trophy Boat Race) is held on the second Saturday of August. This year it was held on 8th August.The venue is 5-6 km from the town.Tickets are available at the venue and through agents.Contact Kerala Tourism for more info.]

Suggested Reads: The history of Nehru Trophy Boat Race

[Photos by Shreyash Pai,Bharat Narayanan and the author.Governed by this license ]

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1 scorpiogeniusNo Gravatar { 08.12.09 at 10:11 pm }

hmmmm… nice shots all over! :)
I can see you had a jolly good time!

2 DeeptiNo Gravatar { 08.12.09 at 10:42 pm }

Almost a real life experience

3 DeeptiNo Gravatar { 08.12.09 at 10:43 pm }

OK I meant i almost felt i saw it too … that comment above doesnt make much sense :D
Nice photos n videos too ..

4 SidNo Gravatar { 08.12.09 at 11:05 pm }

Really nice shots there. I can follow Malayalam though not very good at it, but pretty amusing videos. I can feel the atmosphere. Would have probably joined them if I was there :) though I would have no idea what is going on.

5 PraveenNo Gravatar { 08.13.09 at 1:52 am }

dint know u were there…though I was alone, I enjoyed like hell standing there near those high spirited time u go, do let me know
maybe, this yr’s trissur pooram ;)

6 gazalNo Gravatar { 08.13.09 at 8:39 am }

Great sure it must have been a great experience.THis race finds a mention in all Social studies books,but sadly beyond just the mention,it fails to bring forth the soul of the event.All that the kids know at the end is, ‘Kerala is famous for its boat race”.I think some of these videos can be used in class.

7 Twitted by aravindjose { 08.13.09 at 9:31 am }

[…] This post was Twitted by aravindjose […]

8 gazalNo Gravatar { 08.13.09 at 10:30 am }


9 Rakesh VanamaliNo Gravatar { 08.13.09 at 12:04 pm }

Great shots and a wonderful account! Praveen, another fellow blogger had in the recent past made a mention of his presence during this event!

10 TheComicProjectNo Gravatar { 08.13.09 at 4:16 pm }

Excellent description, photos and videos. You put your 1000D to good use :)

11 rockseaNo Gravatar { 08.17.09 at 9:58 pm }

i guess there are people who facithfully visit the vallam-kalis every year, like those who visit the sabarimala. that may be why you end up hearing all the history.

the boats rowed by the ladies… is that for promotion of the race? or do the ladies have their own competitions? is there any drastic changes from earlier times… from the account you heard from the crowd..?

12 GWBENo Gravatar { 08.17.09 at 11:10 pm }

I am sooooooooooooooooo J!

13 Nikhil NarayananNo Gravatar { 08.17.09 at 11:18 pm }

Totally.Thanks sire.

:-) Thanks DM.

Trust me,even with your not-so-good knowledge of Malayalam,it would have been a great experience.Try being there in 2010.
Thanks for visiting.

:-) Same.
Me also planning.

Sure g.Thanks for the comment.

Sheri:| best per.

@Rakesh Vanamali
Thanks :)
Yes,read that.

Thanks a ton sire!

14 Nikhil NarayananNo Gravatar { 08.17.09 at 11:25 pm }

The locals from all near by villages(kara) are regulars.
The boats rowed by ladies: no, not for promotion.They are on smaller boats and row a smaller distance,when compared to the gigantic chundans.They have their own event.

Nothing much would have changed,except for many sponsors coming in;good for the event and the participants who earn very little.

C’mon P! You can plan and attend in 2010. :-)Ithokke solve cheyyallo.

15 rockseaNo Gravatar { 08.18.09 at 10:25 pm }

danks machu.

16 LaymanNo Gravatar { 08.19.09 at 5:21 pm }

To praveen above and you maashe..
I will be there too.. :)
My house is a stones throw away from poora parambu (stone nannayi valicheriyanam)

17 TinkerbellsNo Gravatar { 08.21.09 at 1:33 pm }

U went for the vallamkali !!! I am feeling sooo very jealous of you…have always wanted to see it…but then again, I really don’t enjoy being in a crowd …so not sure when, if ever !

18 NikhilNo Gravatar { 08.21.09 at 2:12 pm }

@rocksea :)
Entamooo!Njan marannu aa karyam.Ennal podi pooram aakam :D
Yes yes :)
Being in the crowd-you can comfortably find a place to sit on the banks and enjoy the race.Tell K. :-)
Sitting in the gallery is just NOT the thing to do.

19 Preeti ShenoyNo Gravatar { 08.22.09 at 8:52 pm }

Very well captured Nikhil! Well described too. loved the grinning guy1 at the end of video1 :D
You should explain terms like aarpoo irroos for the uninitiated.
This post truly transported me back to Kerala.
Now I am missing being there :(

20 Vijitha ShyamNo Gravatar { 08.25.09 at 12:00 am }

Lovely write up nikhil! i could feel myself being in dat place. Good job Will visit ur blog often :-)

21 Mishmash!No Gravatar { 08.26.09 at 8:48 am }

beautiful shots.. that too full of life…..but videos were more ‘kidilam’…according to my hubby, ” ethu vallam kali alla…’vellam’-kali aa..” :P

In between tweeting and shooting, hope u didnt forget to enjoy the whole thing :)

22 NikhilNo Gravatar { 08.26.09 at 8:10 pm }

Thanks Ps.
:D to the [grin] comment.

@Vijitha Shyam
Thanks for visiting and for the comment.

Thangue thangue.Vellam.Vellam.Vallam. They were the ingredients.People were in water,drunk or on the boats. :-)
I enjoyed the whole thing fully.
If you haven’t yet been there,go next time.[Don’t take tickets and be seated,be in the crowd]

23 varshaNo Gravatar { 08.27.09 at 2:17 am }

I am a allapuzhakari n used to go to see vallam kali every year..ivide US-l vanna sesham othiri miss cheyyana oru sambhavama to see the video in TV though..ithine patti search cheythapazha ee link kitye..Thanks for sharing this Nikhil ..:)

24 kochuthresiamma p jNo Gravatar { 08.28.09 at 12:29 pm }

good post. heart warming to see youngsters eulogising secular values.
‘Here was the celebration of Kuttanad. A celebration, that erased all the differences created by caste and religion.’
i think kuttanad is one ofthe most secular places in kerala. my view only, based on interaction with people from that area for a long time.
btw, aren’t all sports secular? there is no religion for excellence.

25 Nikhil NarayananNo Gravatar { 08.28.09 at 2:07 pm }

Lucky you.This was my first time.
Thanks for visiting and the comment from a real Aalappuzhakaari. :-)

I agree to your point.Sports is secular.:-)
On Kuttanad being the most secular area,I believe that even Malabar is very secular(leave some of the guys linked to terror attacks).
Hindu-Muslim camaraderie in Malabar is worth commeding,in my humble opinion.

Recently heard Shri Hormese Tharakan saying that post the late 70s,we have seen a huge increase in religious tension in the state.Unfortunate.
Getting back to Kuttanad, like I said “The boats were Hindu and Christian, but the oarsmen had no religion.”

26 AnimeshNo Gravatar { 10.03.09 at 10:28 pm }

Beautiful shots Nikhil!!
Had seen the boat race once in alleppey and it was a great experience.

27 krishan jatiyaNo Gravatar { 01.29.10 at 1:27 pm }

Almost a real life experience
OK I meant i almost felt i saw it too … that comment above doesnt make much sense
Nice photos n videos too ..

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