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A Boat Race With a Chequered History

The Thazhathangadi Boat Race holds the unique position as the first of its kind to be organised in a competitive mode on the basis of categories like chundan, vaipu and churulan.

The credit for the initiative goes to a Maharashtra Brahmin named T. Rama Rao, the then Diwan Peshkar of Kottayam in 1887. The visionary administrator, who went on to become the Diwan of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, was in fact the true founder of modern Kottayam town when it was selected as the administrative headquarters of one of the divisions of the princely state.

The boat race, which attracted star visitors like Emperor Haile Salassie of Ethiopia, had continuous run till the mid 1980s when the race fell on bad days on account of the schism among the organisers.

The regatta was resumed in 1997 when Kottayam West Boat Club and Kottayam Municipality joined hands to revive it. The 113th Thazhathangadi Boat Race, the 15th in a row being organised under the aegis of Kottayam West Club, will be formally flagged off by Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Kottayam Municipal Chairman Sunny Kalloor will hoist the flag. Jose K. Mani, MP, will deliver the keynote address and K. Suresh Kurup, MLA, will release the souvenir.

The mass drill and ‘jalaghosha yatra’ prior to the boat race will be inaugurated by cine artists Guinness Pakru and Vijayaraghavan respectively. A.P. Anil Kumar, Minister for Tourism, will give away the prizes.

According to club president Thomas Vattukalam and boat race committee chairman Sunny Kalloor, seven clubs are competing in the race for the chundan grade boats.

They are Jesus Boat Club, Kollam in Illikkalam chundan; Kumarakom Town Boat Club in Jawahar Thayankari; St Francis Boat Club, Kollam in Sreeganesh; Thiruvarpu Boat Club in Karichal; Village Boat Club, Kumarakom in Payippad chundan; Kumarakom Boat Club in Devas; and Vellamkulangara in Vellamkulangara chundan. Together, 35 teams will compete in various grades.

George Jacob

Thazhathangadi Boat Race Today


The then Dewan Peshkar of Kottayam T. Ramarao organised the race in 1887

The 117th edition of Thazhathangadi Boat Race, now known as GAIL Kottayam Boat Race, will be held on Sunday, September 11. Considered to be the oldest in Kerala to be organised based on the class of the boats, the regatta which had fallen on lean days has now regained its old glory so much so that this year 30 boats will be on display, nine of them, snake boats.

Almost all the major boats clubs have registered in advance for the competitions. They include this year’s Nehru Trophy winner Vembanad Boat Club (on Karichal Chundan); St. Francis BC (Kaattil Thekkethil); Samudra Boat Club, Kumarakom (Jawahar thayankari); Calvary Boat Club, Thottadi (Nadubhagom); NCDC Club, Kaipuzhamuttu (St. George); Balasubrahmonia Seva Sanghom, (St. Pius X); Kumarakom Town Boat Club (Champakkulam); Daveed Puthra Boat Club, Kollam (Aayaparambu Valiya Diwanji) and Thiruvarpu Boat Club on Aayaparambu Paandi Chundan.

In addition, there will be competitions in Iruttukuthy Class (Grades A and B); Veppu (Grades A and B); and Churulan.

The Thazhathangadi Boat Race dates back to 1887 when the then Dewan Peshkar (Division Head) of Kottayam and later Dewan of Travancore T. Ramarao organised the race, based on carefully arranged classes like Chundan, Iruttukuthy, Veppu and Churulan. It was also for the first time that the regatta was organised on a competitive mode. In the early years it had attracted the patronage of Travancore Royalty. One of the most memorable moments in the history of the boat race was when Haile Selassie, the last Emperor of Ethiopia, graced the regatta. However, in 1986 the boat race had an abrupt end. After a gap of 12 years, the boat race was reborn with added vigour.

The boat race had an abrupt end in 1986 and it was reborn with added vigour after 12 years

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