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History of Houseboats in Kerala

Updated on November 11, 2013

History of Houseboats in Kerala.

Origin: Kerala is blessed with back waters and rich with man made and natural canals. Vembanad lake covering an area of 200 km and boarded by cities like Ernakulam (Cochin), Alappuzha (earlier it was known as Alleppey) and Kottayam. There was water route from Cochin to Kollam (Earlier it was know as Quilon) which is about 200 km long. Kettuvallams (boats depend on wind and bamboo poles) were used to transport goods in bulk quantity from city to city. It would take 15 days to a full month to complete the journey. These boats were mostly depend on wind. When there is no wind the boatman use long bamboo pols to move the boat. Normally there will be three to four boatman in a boat during the voyage. One stand in the front and the other in the back to push the boat forward. The other two will be preparing food and taking rest. Once the two get tired, the other two take charge and continue the voyage. If there is wind they put up the rig and open the canvas for sailing. This is a temporary arrangement and can be dismantle the same if there is no wind or if the wind is in opposite direction. There was no machine powered boats in that time. This mode of transportation was very cheap and convenient as most of the cities can be reached through canals.

Due to the development in the road and rail transport facilities, these traditional mode of water transportation came to and end. Big size boats were of no use and many employees lost their job as boatman. Boat repairing men and boat builders were out of work and those who were depend on these industry were in fear of losing their job. At this time someone came up with the idea of turning this boat into Houseboat. At first it was in Alappuzha, the houseboat came into life. It gradually developed and the tourism in Kerala flourished.

Continuous development changed the interior of these boats. Presently the interiors of these boats are competent to five star hotels. Now these boats are equipped with diesel powered engine and generator to generate electricity. It turned to be a success and found more profitable than the traditional water transportation.

Many old boats which were useless once, now transformed into Houseboats. Many boat owners turned their boats into houseboats. Houseboat designers came with new designs like one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom houseboats. Also the inside and outside of these houseboats modified to match the five star hotel rooms to attract foreign tourists. Now it become the one of the major business in the Alappuzha District. Many travel agents in and outside India earning good commission for promoting these Houseboats. Well trained cooks are getting jobs on these boats for preparing food for guests.

During the course of time it turned out to be a multi million dollar business and many depend on this business for their livelihood. The rich backwaters, lakes and canals in Kerala and the beauty of “god's own country” attract many foreign tourists for boating/cruise overnight in the backwaters.


Bamboo Pole pushed boat
Bamboo Pole pushed boat
Bamboo Pole pushed boat
Bamboo Pole pushed boat
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House Boat outside view
House boat inside view
House boat inside view
Original cargo Kettuvallam
Original cargo Kettuvallam
Open cargo kettuvallam
Open cargo kettuvallam

Valavara Vallam

 Valavara Vallam (Covered Boat) is the earlier mode of transport in Kuttanad and were popular in early 1960's now very rarely seen in Kuttanad, Kerala.
Valavara Vallam (Covered Boat) is the earlier mode of transport in Kuttanad and were popular in early 1960's now very rarely seen in Kuttanad, Kerala.

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    • houseboat-kashmir profile image

      houseboat-kashmir 5 years ago

      Thanks for the nice hub and providing history of Kerala houseboats.

    • injaz profile image

      injaz 6 years ago from Thrissur dt

      yes most useful blog also u can visit the visitors, www.keralaincredible.blogspot.com

    • jacobkuttyta profile image
      Author

      jacobkuttyta 7 years ago from Delhi, India

      Thanks Dolores Monet for your kind visit and comment

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      What a wonderful way to travel. The views must be excellent and if you love water, there it is!

    • jacobkuttyta profile image
      Author

      jacobkuttyta 8 years ago from Delhi, India

      Aqua thanks for visiting my hub.

    • crayonbrains profile image

      crayonbrains 8 years ago from The World Is Mine !

      Good info , I would love to visit Kerala someday ..Thank you !

    • Aqua profile image

      Aqua 8 years ago from California

      This is so interesting! I didn't realize the houseboats were so elaborate. It would be great to rent one for a few nights for a very unique vacation. I'll have to add this to my travel wish list!

    • jacobkuttyta profile image
      Author

      jacobkuttyta 8 years ago from Delhi, India

      Peggy, You are right. The inside of these Houseboats are beautiful as a five star hotel room.

      Yes Jiberish, It was a dying business now turned to a growing business.

    • jiberish profile image

      jiberish 8 years ago from florida

      Just goes to show that a little dream can become a nice business. Good Hub, Thank you.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting and ingenious way to turn a dying business into a profitable one. I'll bet the insides of the houseboats are beautiful.

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