The island of Gothuruth near Kochi turned into a festival ground on Sunday when the 76 annual Gothuruth boat race was flagged off on the river, a tributary of the Periyar, flowing past the island.

Amid the cheering of the crowds and folk songs playing on shore, the boat ‘Thaniyan’ of Thanthonnithuruth boat club, captained by K.R. Ratheesh, sailed to take the first prize in the ‘iruttu kuthy’ category ‘A.’ The boat’s victory on Sunday completed its hat-trick in the category for boats rowed by a team of 40 people. ‘Hanuman I’ of Paloor Yuvajana Kala Samithi raced to the second place.

In the ‘B’ category for boats rowed by teams of 30 men, ‘Sreemurukan,’ captained by Shivadasan of Thanniyam boat club, finished first. ‘St. Sebastian II’ of Rudiramala boat club came second.

The race paid tribute to the traditional art form of ‘Chavittunatakam,’ once a strong presence in the cultural life of the island. The races began with a prayer from the songs written for the art form. Raising the spirits of the crowd during the race was ‘Thaivamakkal’ group from Kanimangalam, Thrissur, which performed folk songs.

Union Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs K.V. Thomas inaugurated the race. A pension scheme for rowers over 65 years of age was also instituted by the Gothuruth Sports and Arts Club, the organisers of the race, on the occasion. Held to coincide with the feast at the Holy Cross church on the river bank, the annual Gothuruth boat race is a part of the history of the island itself.

The race is organised every year by the Gothuruth Sports and Arts Club, which was started in 1913 as the Catholic Young Men Association.

This year’s boat race also marks the beginning of the club’s 100 anniversary celebrations.

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