What is a Kettuvallam?

Isn’t it interesting that a structure that was first used over 3000 years ago continues to be used for transportation even now? The Kettuvallam is a house boat widely used in the state of Kerala. They are huge and slow-moving and have thatched roof covers over wooden hulls. Kettu means “tied with ropes” and vallam means “boat”.

In ancient times, these houseboats were used for the transportation of merchandise such as rice and spices as well as passengers. The immense scale of the boats allowed them to transport impressive quantities of goods, equal to three times that which can be carried by a modern cargo truck.
Unbelievable as it may sound, not a single nail is used in the making of a kettuvallam. Jackwood planks are joined together with coir rope and then coated with black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. The materials that go into its making are all local and eco friendly – bamboo poles, coconut fibre ropes, bamboo mats, coir carpets, etc.

Today the kettuvellam is used more in the tourism industry than in cargo. Many kettuvallams continue to be maneuvered with the use of man-operated bamboo poles, preserving the blue-green waters of Kerala’s lengthy canals.

Modern kettuvallams now come fully furnished with single, double or triple bed rooms, with sun decks, comfortable chairs, kitchens and toilets and other luxuries for the tourist as well.

To reflect upon

Can you think of other such technologies/structures that continue to be used in nearly the same manner as they were many millennia ago?

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