Photos

Photographer's Note

A Kettuvallom slides through the backwaters of Kerala, S-W India.

The kettuvallams (Kerala houseboats) in the backwaters are one of the prominent tourist attractions in Kerala. More than 400 kettuvallams ply the backwaters,120 of them in Alappuzha.
The coastal regions of Kerala have a network of waterways, inlets from the sea, estuaries of over forty rivers, lakes and natural canals connecting coastal towns. This interlinked body of waterways is known as the backwaters in Kerala. Over 900 Km of the Kerala backwaters are navigable and have been used for centuries by the local people for transportation.
The backwaters of Kerala have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea in the backwaters in Kerala.

In the Malayalam language "kettu" means tying and “vallam” means country boat – the two together make the local name "kettuvallam”. Each houseboat is constructed using the ancient principles and techniques of boat building by the local carpenters using ‘Anjali` wood. Coir ropes are used for tying the wooden boards together.


Boats in a variety of shapes and sizes have traditionally been the main means of transport of men and materials in the Kerala Backwaters since olden days.In particular, the house boats were used to ship rice and spices and other goods between Kuttanad and the Cochin port. It was a three-day affair those days. A standard house boat, which could be about 100 feet long, can hold up to 30 tons, and that is as much as three big lorries can.
It took the vision and enterpreneurship of a couple of enterprising young men to refurbish one of these leviathans, hoisting on to it a wooden super-structure incorporating a huge bed room, a toilet, a kitchenette and an open balcony. The ancient houseboat with a modernized interior became a hot favourite with tourists. As the houseboats glide over the Kerala backwaters at a leisurely pace, the sights are new, the sounds are new, and every sensation is new every passing moment.

A kettuvallam is about 67 feet in length and has a width of around 13 feet in the middle. The materials that go into the making are local and ecofriendly; bamboo poles, coconut fibre, ropes, bamboo mats, carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjili" (Artocarpus hirsuta). The hull is a series of wooden planks, long cut and carved, tied together using coir with coconut fibers stuffed in between. The hull which is made of hundreds of fine but heavy-duty planks of jack-wood is held together absolutely by coir knots (not a single nail is used). This framework is then coated with a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels. And it lasts for generations. The kettuvallam is motorised and is steered in deep waters by means of oars. Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to propel in shadow areas. Bamboo beams sprouting off on the sides are used as foot holds for the same. Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof and splits of bamboo are used for weaving mat for roofing.

Budapestman, BWJ, batalay, patdeph, Longroute, tiobibi, kiks, worldcitizen, paura has marked this note useful

Photo Information
Viewed: 9413
Points: 32
Discussions
  • None
Additional Photos by Paul Bulteel (pauloog) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 77 N: 1882] (11751)
View More Pictures
explore TREKEARTH