Kumarakom Houseboats - Kerala house boat

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Kerala Houseboat

A houseboat is a specially designed boat for human dwelling. The Houseboats of Kerala, popularly known as the ‘Kettuvallams’ are the large floating formations with high load carrying capacity. They reflect the culture and heritage of Kerala. In the initial stages, they were primarily used for the transportation of men or / and materials from the isolated and interior villages of Kerala’s bakwater areas to the then major trading centers like Allepy, kollam, Cochin, or Kottayam etc.

In those days the main mode of water transprotaion in Kerala had been these Kettuvallams; especially in the Kuttanad regions. In moderntimes however, as a result of the improved means of transprotation, these Kettuvallams almost faced a slow death. Thanks to the modern tourism industy; these kettuvallams have resurfaced in a more suphosticated and luxurious form by the name HOUSEBOATS.These houseboats of the present age are huge slow moving exotic barges used for leisure trips. They have become a major sourse of attraction both for natioanl as well as internbatioanla tourists visiting Kerala. These Kettuvallams / houseboats have played a great role in the economic growth of Kerala. The fact that half a century ago there were more than 5000 kettuvalloms / houseboats in Kerala proves the economic importance of these boats.

A tour in the house boat will really take you to the height of enjoyment and ecstasy. It will be an unforgettable experience in your life. The slow movement of the house boats, the gentle touch of the sweet breeze from the cool backwaters all but mesmerizes you to an unmentionable excitement and happiness. It is an exotic feeling, so romantic, so thrilling, and so pulsating an experience it would be that you cannot but permit it never to be faded from your memory. The greenery, scenes of the villages, the boat jetties and passengers, the farmers and paddy fields, the coconut palms on either sides of the banks, all together make your trip most beautiful. On the whole you feel relaxed, calm and gentle as the backwaters.

Construction of House boats

Etymologically, kettuvallam is a compound word in Malayalam, namely, ‘kettu’ means ‘tied with’ and vallam means ‘boat’. Thus kettuvallam literally means two or more vallams tied up together. The present Kerala houseboats are in differernt sizes according to the rooms and salons (salone / large hall) it covers. Mostly, they are 95 feet to 107 feet in length and 13 to 19 feet width at the middle. All the raw materials needed for the construction of the houseboats are Eco-friendly. The hull is made of wooden planks tied together by ropes of coconut fiber. The common wood used in the making of it is locally called ‘Anjili’. The roof is made up of bamboo poles and thatched with palm leaves. To prevent the wood from deterioration, cashew nut oil which works as an Eco friendly protective varnish, is used to pain the exterior of the boat.

Each house boat is manned by minimum three (3) crews-boat Driver, Chef and cabin assistant. The menus served in houseboats are mainly traditional Kerala items. Traditional food cooked according to the taste of tourists whether it be vegetarian or non vegetarian.

These house boats are categorized into single bedroom, double bedrooms, and 3 and 5 bedrooms. Single bedroom means it can accommodate a couple or two persons. Double is meant for 4 persons and 3-bed can be shared by 6 persons. Besides big house boats with sundeck, private gallery with comfortable chairs, kitchen and toilet, there are also more luxurious houseboats with A/c facilities also available. Most of the houseboats have separate rest rooms.

A cruise in a houseboat is unique experience in itself. It will give you an opportunity to enjoy and contain a leisurely and pace of life. Here, you are balancing along the cool relaxing water experience and the remarkable demonstration of Kerala life. This cruise is an environmental friendly transport system which is best suited for clean trip. Houseboats in Kerala are not only economical but also non-polluting and environment friendly. It thus becames essential, that this mode of transportation be developed further and encouraged.

Today, the luxury houseboats are the most enchanting holiday experience in India. In this world of simple pleasures, you will glide past the earliest Chinese fishing nets, water lilies, lush paddy fields, coir villages, rustic homes, temples and coconut groves as you cruise through the backwaters of Kerala. A guided tour along the backwaters would offer you with a complete and most captivating experience and will also expose to you some interesting data about the life of local villagers.

The new generation-Houseboats are renovated forms of original Kettuvalloms. The modern type Houseboats have all the imaginative comforts like a Hotel, well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, precious living rooms, dining area, attractive kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. Most of the houseboats are powered by inconspicuous inboard diesel engines and use solar energy for power requirements.

Types of Boats/Valloms

1. Chundans (Snake boats) : The present state of Kerala was once ruled by many Kings and it was divided over more than 5 regions. The Chempakasseri King, ruler of the Kayamkulam area was using the CHUNDAN VALLOM as his war ship in many a battles. He was the one who had for the first time constructed the Chundan vallom and used it for war purposes. He won many wars with these. To support this Chundan vallom (warship) in the battles, he had started building other types of valloms/boats too. Details of these other valloms / boats are follows as belows.

2. Veppu valloms: Which was used to support the chundan vallams. It was also known as Parunth Vallam (Kite-tail). All the items and food required for the soldiers in the Chundan vallom were carried by Veppu vallons.

3. Iruttukutty: It is also known as Vadakkan Oddy and they were much faster and the pirates started using it in the lakes. It did not make much noise while moving over the waters. The comparatively high speed and the low noise soon made it one of the most attractive ones for the pirates in the ancient times.

4. Thekkan Oddy (Company boats): This is a very beautiful boat with its nose like Churulan and its stern like Chundan. It is called Thekkan Oddy. In most of the boat races; especially in the famous Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race at Aleppy these are used. The Thekkan Oddy boats are primarily reserved for the boat race of women.

5. Churulans: These are very unique type of boats that are pushed through the water with the help of poles, instead of the traditional oars. These are used by rich people while travelling. Long and thin bamboo poles used to move the churulans in the water. The oars men use these bamboo poles and they push it down and move from front to back and again.

6. Palliyodams: This type of boats have huge sterns than Chundan. The nose of the Palliyodams is much higher and helps it in moving much faster.

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