17
Mar
11

Welcome to Kerala, the land of surprise – Houseboats on the backwaters

Kerala is the Southern State of India. It has an area of 15.005 square miles (38.863 square kilometers), only about 1 percent of the total area of the country. The state stretches for 360 miles (580 kilometers) along the Malabar Coast on the southwestern side of the Indian peninsula, its width varies from 20 to 75 miles. It is bordered by the states of Karnataka (formerly Mysore) to the north and Tamil Nadu to the east and by the Arabian Sea. Kerala, certainly is a rich cultural and ethnic place due to its diversity. The visit to religious places of Kerala is the best option to view the different architectures of ancient India.

The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) in the Kerala state in Southern India. The network includes five large lakes, linked by 1.500 km of canals, both manmade and natural fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually the entire length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range. Vembanad lake is the largest of the lakes, covering an area of 200 sq km, and bordered by Alleppey, Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Cochin is located at the lake’s outlet to the Arabian Sea. Alleppey, or “Venice of the East” has a large network of canals that meander through the town.

A houseboat (Kettuvallam) is a kind of moving floating house in Kerala, India. Kettuvallam literally means “bundle” or “package” boat (‘Kettu’ means tied with ropes, and ‘Vallam’ means boat – Malayalam language). A houseboat is about 60 to 70 feet in length and has a width of around 15 feet in the middle. The boat is made of wooden planks joined and stitched together using coconut fiber ropes. Usually the wood used will be ‘Anjili’, The roof covering is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. The outside of the boat is painted using cashew nut oil, which acts as a protective coating. During the time when road and rail transportation was expensive or unavailable, traders used Kettuvallams as a form of main transportation in the inland waterways. The boats had enough facilities for cooking and sleeping for the boatmen. Sometimes boatmen’s families also accompanied them.

The new generation houseboats are renovated forms of original Kettuvallams. The modern type of houseboats have all the creative comforts like in a hotel i.e. well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, cozy living rooms, dining area, beautiful kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. Most of the houseboats are powered by remarkably unobtrusive inboard diesel engines and use solar energy for power requirements.

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