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History of Kerala House boats

The Kettuvallam / Kettuvallom (name of a House Boat in Kerala) was historically is a large floating boat with high load carrying capacity and was a part of Kerala's culture and heritage over the past years. Even to the present day these boats float harnessing wind energy. A journey through the lagoon is interesting which passes through peaceful villages, busy boat jetties and vibrant celebrations. The boat glides across the shimmering blue waters which are gorgeous green with fringed edges. The small cargo boats called Kettuvalloms are frequently used in the waterways for the above purpose. In local dialect (Malayalam) "Kettu" means “to tie” and "Vallom" means " boats". Hence the name Kettuvallom was formed. These boats played a major role in the economic development of ancient Kerala, moving cargo and men from every very nook and corner of an otherwise inaccessible area, cutting across the length and breadth of the water mass. About half a century ago, there were more than 5000 kettuvalloms in the backwaters of Kerala, mainly used for transporting goods

Once upon a time these Houseboats were olden day rice boats, which were used to carry the harvest from one part of the other place safely and eco friendly, with no mechanized systems. Through centuries Kettuvallam / Kettuvallom (House Boat in Kerala) have been roaming in the backwaters transporting men and materials to different destinations. Due to its sheer size and shape, Kettuvallam carry load, which is at times more than three times that of a cargo truck. Kettuvallom is an important mode of transportation in coastal Kerala just because of its accessibility in the most remote areas. As time passed, this situation changed gradually. Motorized road, rail and air transportation scored over the slow country boats, with people opting for speed over charm. During the time when road and rail transportation was expensive or unavailable, traders used this as a form of main transportation in the inland waterways. The House boats had enough facilities for cooking and sleeping for the boatmen. Sometimes boatmen's families too accompanied them. A standard house boat, which could be about 100 feet long, can hold up to 30 tons, and that is as much as the standard three big Lorries can. As for the royalty – men of high bearing - these boats became a comfortable living quarters.

With Kerala becoming an increasing destination for tourists, Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom (House Boat in Kerala) have been given a new lease of life. A cruise in the backwaters of Kerala in these boats is a remarkable experience and an opportunity to enjoy the contained unhurried pace of life. Floating along the cool tranquil water one can experience an unusual approach of the Kerala life. Accounting for eco-friendliness this has become the yardstick gauging the efficiency and effectiveness in transportation. Thus a Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom (House Boat in Kerala) is not only economical but also non-polluting and environment friendly. It thus became imperative that this mode of transportation is be developed further and encouraged.

Thus the tourist demand for an experience to get a feel of the Kerala shores brought the Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom (House Boat in Kerala) back to the waters in the restored form of a Houseboat. This simplicity and the originality of the form of the Houseboat will capture your attention for a serene relaxing and enjoyable ride through the various historic locations. Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat Basic Structure

The hull of a Houseboat is comprised of a series of long wooden planks, cut and carved by the expert hands of the carpenter and tied together using coir with coconut fibers fitted in between. Earlier Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom (House Boat in Kerala) is steered by two persons in deep waters by means of bamboo poles (kazhukol). Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to propel in shallow areas. Bamboo beams fitted on the sides are used as foot holds for the same a senior oarsman and a helper control the Kettuvallam. This is generally accompanied by singing songs and chants for inspiration. A box of sand and a few bricks in the interior facilitate cooking on lower racks, with storage facilities on the upper racks. Food and necessary items are stored in separate shelves. The sleeping quarters are generally located on the uppermost racks, which have the best ventilation and accessibility. Interior spaces can also be used for the same when there is no cargo. Fresh water is stored in earthenware pots.

The body of Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat Due to difficulties in convenience it had become necessary to make some changes in the existent form of a Houseboat so that a comfortable cruise was possible for the tourist. The body was redesigned and remodeled to adapt for the new demands and functions. Certain elements had to be added and others removed to make it good enough for comfortable cruise. Height of roof was increased to get sufficient space in the bed room. A plank was laid all through the length to reduce the disadvantages of curved shape of the hull which was used for walking and comfortable seating. Windows and other openings were provided light, airflow and view. The entrance is provided in the center of the linear axis with a panel hung from the top, which was supported by poles on either ends of the Vallavara.

Today these Houseboats are fitted with the latest designs and have (1) bed room houseboats, Two (2) bed room houseboats ,Three (3) bed room houseboats, Four (4) bed room houseboats, Five (5) bed room houseboats and Family Houseboats each with a modern day toilets, living space and kitchen. For fixing the toilet seats, shower tray and ceramic floor finish a concrete slab is laid at the floor level. The soil outlet of the toilet seats are taken through the hull and let out to the following water beneath, the water is stored in a plastic tank kept at the top portion of the Vallavara taking the connection to the kitchen and toilets. The pipes, tank and other synthetic materials are covered with coir or panambu to maintain the aesthetic quality of the eco friendly materials. The air cylinders, which are of the metal body, are fixed to the underside of the cantilevered platforms at the entry points of Vallavara. These cylinders help to balance the structure on the water reducing its tilting to the sides to a minimum.

Modern house boats have been designed to meet the Green Palm/Gold Star Certifications by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, which has recently enacted regulations, stipulating the quality standards that are to be maintained by the Kerala houseboats or Kettuvallams.

Colour and texture of Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat The color of the Vallavara is yellowish brown, which is the color of the natural materials like panambu, coir and bamboo. It is a warmer color comparing to the color of the surrounding atmosphere. This gives a nice feeling of being inside the Vallam. Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof and splits of Bamboo are used for weaving mat for roofing. Bamboo poles are used for punting the Vallams. This is made of strong fiber and absorbs more carbon. Latest houseboats have modern interiors.

Furnishings in Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat The interior furniture is either of cane or wood with a carpeted floor made of coir mat and wood panels. Vallavara of panambu, Bamboo and coir all colors matching each other but bring the depth and variations in vision reflecting on the tranquility of the surroundings.

Lighting inside the Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat Lights and the patterns of lights followed in the present House boats calls for your attention to the flamboyance creating a division of spaces. During night times a traditional hurricane lamp is used to light the interiors. Usually one is hung from the ridge of Vallavara one at the front and one at the rear, theron one or two accordingly for the living spaces. Mostly for half of a month there will be moonlight, which would provide sufficient light, also reflected on water. Modern Kettuvallam /Kettuvallom /House Boat use Generator sets or Solar power to provide lighting and power requirements inside the Houseboat.

Eco friendly Eco friendly Houseboats Keeping bio-septic tank (eco friendly toilets), tested and certified by the Central Research Laboratory (CRL), fitted to collect the effluents thereby avoiding pollution to the backwaters

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