A TSDT publication

Revised on Nov 30, 2015
August 2, 2013

Birth of Nehru Trophy
On august 15, 2013 it will be India’s 67th independence
day. Apart from that, for Kerala-state people, they
celebrate a boat race. This year boat race, which is also
called a SNAKE-BOAT RACE, is supposed to be on the
10th of August 2013.
Below is the photograph of first Nehru Trophy award
given to Sri Pooppallil Kuttiyachen, (Joseph Cherian) Alappuzha; in 1952 that
was conducted in Punnamada-Lake, Alappuzha-District, Kerala-State, INDIA.


The first prize of 1952 boat race went to “NADU’BHAGAM” boat. I have not
seen any photograph of it. Probably it must have got ruined over the long
years of time.
The birth of Nehru-trophy was mere accidental. During Nehru’s state visit
to “Travancore-Cochin-State” of that time, (Long before the formation of
Kerala-State), Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru happened to travel from Kottayam
to Alappuzha through waterways. At that time the local people organized a
boat race in honor of Nehru. The overjoyed Prime minister offered an everrolling trophy, which is being continued as Nehru Trophy thenafter.
On July 01, 1949 Travancore-State and Cochin-State joined together and
created Travancore-Cochin-State.
Only in November 01, 1956 Kerala-State was formed under the “State
Reorganization Act”
I do not have much information about the First Nehru Trophy boat race or
the background of Napoleon boat Pooppally had. When this event took place
I was only 14 years old and I am unable to remember every details of it.
After the event, there was a heated discussion at Pooppally home about
loosing the First-Prize. Some sabotage did take place and Pooppally family
members were very furious about it.
Pooppally Kuttiyachen was a good agriculturist primarily and a businessman
als. He was a great diplomat and political manipulator. Most of the MPs MLAs
and ministers of his period were his constant visitors. Pooppally’s
inheritances were hundreds of acres of paddy field, a huge rice-mill,
producing boiled rice; large-scale cocoanut oil extracting oil-mill and a silent
movie theatre when no one else had at that time. Though there was no
electricity at that time when they started the theater, it was run with a
generator. They started running a silent movie theatre. I remember of
meeting an old man who was making background noises at the theatre for the
silent movies, which had no sound system. Pooppally also had shrimp freezing
plant and shrimp exporting and coir-mat exporting.


Pooppally was the biggest contributor of the St. Thomas Orthodox Syrian
Church, near vazhichery Bridge Alappuza. Joseph Cherian (Kuttiyachen) was
the only person buried in Church Cemetery in the past. Due to acute
shortage of space, the cemetery was not open to everyone, when he was
buried there.
I do not know why Pooppally took the interest in Boat race. They are
originally from Kuttanad. Country boats and canoes were part and parcel of
their everyday life. Before the motorboats came in to use, country boats
were the only means of transportation they had. Pooppally also had a private
motorboat for their personal use. Within a short period of time after the
boat-race-victory, Kuttiyachen received “VEERA-CHANGALA and VADI”,
from KOCHI - RAJA for a successful and remarkable “businessmanship”.
“VEERA-CHANGALA” is a bracelet and “VADI” is an ornamented walking
stick - very rarely given in honor to remarkable persons by KOCHI- RAJA.
Later, when Kuttiyachen died, his youngest son Monichen took over the
interest in boat race. By 2013 he must be around 84-85 years of age.
According to some records Napoleon won races, second in 1952, & then first
in 1957, 1958, 1959, and in 1961.
By 1973 Napoleon was sold to “VALLAM’KULANGARA”.
After 1961 some carpenter advised Monichen to increase the length of the
boat by few feet to accommodate more rowers to increase the speed. But
for some unknown reason or bad luck they did not get the benefit they
I am not sure, any superstitious belief or any other mafia operation was
behind Pooppally boat, which haunted their belief that their boat may not
win again. But they were not optimistic about its future success for sure.
Monichen himself told me once, things are not working out well even after
huge spending for the maintenance of the boat.


In ‘emalayalee.com’ website they published an elaborate history of NapoleonVallam, http://www.emalayalee.com/varthaFull.php?newsId=56775
Written by Kurian Pampaady, which you may please refer, if you are
To present this type of a boat for the race it will cost more than
3’000’000/- Indian rupees (maintenance cost). To make one of these kind of
a boat it should cost more than 9000’000 Indian rupees.
Usually a race boat of this kind, carries 90- 120 rowers or more and a length
of more than 120 feet, made of wood. The original photograph of first
Nehru Trophy is in black and white and the one shown in this is the modified
copy of photo Pooppallil Kuttiyachen had in his home in Alappuzha.
I have been away from my home for too many years and do not have much
contact at present with Pooppally family members. Kuttiyachen is one of the
older brothers of my mother. I had few of the old photographs and this is
one of the leftovers. Many photographs got lost in transit in my continued
change of my residences.
It is very difficult for me to collect any details at present because most of
the seniors have faded away and the youngsters may have very little
knowledge besides I am far away from my home.


Above is the image of a typical racing boat and not of Napoleon.
They had a plan to present this Napoleon in Thames river of London. People
say Achuthanandan Government did not have any interest, so it got busted.
The details of which is explained in following website.

Technical Specifications of the boat Napoleon/ Vellamkulamgara as
shown in following website> keraleeyam.in <

Length – 140 feet
Width – 10 feet
Weight 4 to 5 tons
Tail end height – 20 to 25 feet
General height – less than 15

Author: G J T

A TSDT publication
August 2, 2013
============================= = =========
Shree Ganeshan Chundan, of the St Francis Boat Club, Harippad won the 61st Nehru
Trophy Boat Race 2013 on 9 August , held in Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, KeralaState.

Revised: November 30, 2015

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