What is a Houseboat?
|The Kerala houseboat is a modified kettuvallam, the large boat of yesteryears. In Malayalam, ‘kettu’ means to tie and ‘vallom’ means boat. These boats were held together with rope and hence the name. Kettuvallams were used for the transportation of goods like rice and spices from Kumarakom and areas of Kuttanad to neighbouring towns. With the emergence and development of modern road and rail transportation, these graceful behemoths were shelved. Their reemergence occurred with the growth of tourism. It is now a tourist attraction and a popular mode to explore the magnificence of the Kumarakom backwaters.
Traditionally, a houseboat was about 60 to 70 feet long and about 13 to 15 feet wide at the beam. Some of the new luxurious houseboats have a length of more than 80 ft. Eco-friendly and easily available materials such as jackfruit tree wood, palm wood, coconut fibre, bamboo poles, ropes, bamboo mats etc are used for constructing these boats. The boat is made by tying together (rather than nailing) planks of wood, generally anjili (wood of the jackfruit tree) with coconut fibre. As a protective coat, black resin extracted from cashew nut shells is applied on the planks. The motors mainly run on kerosene or petrol. Bamboo poles and palm leaves are used for constructing the roof.