How Kettuvallams (Houseboats) Originated in Kerala?

Kettuvallam Houseboat

Alappuzha aka Alleppey is the citadel of houseboats and there are more than 120 houseboats in this beautiful beach town. A houseboat/Kettuvallam vacation is a perfect idea to enjoy the beauty of Alappuzha and also to become a part of Kerala culture.

A Kerala tour is complete only with an Alappuzha houseboat cruise. This laid-back boating is a great opportunity to explore the beauty of backwaters. A major contributor to Kerala tourism is the Alappuzha houseboat. It is also an inseparable part of Kerala’s culture and tradition. The houseboats are a common sight of Kerala backwaters especially Alappuzha and the houseboat cruise makes holidays thrilling beyond imagination.

Take a look into the story of the Alappuzha houseboats!

The delightful journey of houseboats is thrilling. It all started as Wooden Vessels in 3000 BC. In those days, vessels were used to transport people and goods. These wooden vessels were called Kettuvallam. During those times, there wasn’t a way to connect Alappuzha to other parts of Kerala and Kettuvallams were the only means of transportation. The word Kettuvallam is derived from two Malayalam words ‘Kettu' which means “to tie” and ‘Vallam‘ means “boat”. The construction of  Kettuvallams is stronger and they are spacious too. A typical houseboat can carry more than 25 tons which is approximate what three trucks are capable of carrying.  They can carry a large number of goods like rice, coir products, spices, coconut, etc. People used these Vallams/ boats for their day-to-day needs. These Vallams are made of wood and the roof was thatched of coconut leaves or palm leaves. Once road transportation started, these Valloms were converted as houseboats with bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, kitchen, etc. Today, there are different types of houseboats like Luxurious, Premium, Deluxe houseboats, and more.

The story of houseboats in a nutshell explains that even before the highways/roadways became a reality and the railways existed, water bodies were the means of transportation. In Kerala, there are communities who are specialized in the making of houseboat construction. These communities pass the secret of houseboat construction to their next-generation alone.

In the 1990s the houseboats became the main attraction of Alappuzha. These finely crafted houseboats are the first of their kind in India. Since then, they are making a significant contribution to Kerala tourism. Though modernization swept water transport from mainstream traveling, the tourist interest helped Alappuzha houseboats to stand-out in glory. Nevertheless, the structure of a houseboat is amazing. They safeguard traditional beauty even when adapted to modern needs.

The typical length of a houseboat is 80ft. They are constructed using wood, coconut/palm leaves, and coir. The houseboats are constructed without using nails, nuts, or bolts. Presently, tourists prefer the houseboats which resemble a floating palace to stay and sightseeing. The facilities and relaxation a houseboat offer is beyond a star-rated hotel can offer; Open Yet Private!

Isn’t it interesting to know how humble transport developed as a face of luxury and relaxation?!


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