Houseboats were large barges used to carry goods. Traditionally, the houseboats were called Kettuvallams, which means a boat made by trying together pieces of wood. It is made of wood planks and coir rope and then coated with black resin made from boiled cashew nuts shells.
Houseboats of Kashmir are converted shikaras. 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. In the past shikaras were the major method of cargo transportation in the Kashmir.
Houseboats are olden day rice boats, which were used to carry the harvest from one part of the other place to go safely as eco friendly, no mechanized, centuries Shikaras have been roaming in the backwaters transporting men and materials to different destinations. Due to its sheer size and shape, Shikaras can carry heavy load. It was the important mode of transportation in Kashmir just because of its accessibility to the most remote areas. As time passed, the scene changed gradually. Motorized road, rail and air transportation scored over the slow and staid country boat, with people opting for speed over charm. During the time when road and rail transportation was expensive or unavailable,traders used this as a form of main transportation in the inland waterways. The boats had enough facilities for cooking and sleeping for the boatmen.
The Houseboats were also used for general transport purposes, primarily in the Travancore and Kochi regions. They were punted across the backwaters to the sea where the goods were offloaded. A trip from the Kuttanad to Cochin port was about three days of travel. A traditional boat might carry as much as 30 tons of goods which is the equivalent of three modern lorries. With the backwater area of Kerala so waterlogged, other forms of transport were both inefficient and difficult.
A houseboat is on an average 70 feet long boats with 15 feet width in the central section. They are made from wooden planks that are stitched together by coconut ropes. Interestingly, nails are not used at all in the construction of the Houseboats. Most of the houseboats are made from a wood known by the name of Anjili. Palm leaves tied over bamboo poles form the roof of these houseboats. Cashew Nut oil is used as a varnish to ensure a protection for the houseboats.