Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar titled "Kerala Waterway Workers" (c)2017

Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar titled “Kerala Waterway Workers” (c)2017

Kerala boats are unique to the Malabar Coast and dot the intracoastal waterways that lie parallel to the Andaman sea. These boats are a significant part of the local economy as they bring important commercially grown produce such as rice, coconuts, bananas and spices to the coast for distribution. These boats are capable of carrying the equivalent of 3 trucks.

Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar titled "Kerala Waterway Workers" (c)2017

Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar titled “Kerala Waterway Workers” (c)2017

These Kerala boats are called vallams in the Malayalam language, native to Kerala. Vallams are canoes made from local wood calledĀ ‘Anjali’ or jack-wood and deeply oiled with a black resin from the kernel of cashews, a locally grown produce. The black silhouette of the canoe on the water is a signature of the waterways. Racing canoes are much longer and can hold up to a hundred oarsmen. These often have more prominent prows with carvings and paint. But it is the common Kerala boat that I loved seeing on the still waters being pulled along by poles and paddles.

 

Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar, Kerala Boat

Oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar, Kerala Boat.

These two oil paintings on canvas of Kerala Boats measure 36″ x 18″. The solitary boat moored alongside the river is typical of the boats used to move people and cargo. The oil painting with the two workers transporting wooden planks was captured after sunset on the waterway to Alleppey. We were traveling north on a Government Ferry from Quilon (Kollam) after spending considerable time on Lighthouse Beach in Trivandrum.

Kettuvallam (Converted rice barge for Kerala Tourism); Kerala Boat, Houseboat; Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar photography; copyright 2002

Kettuvallam – Converted rice barge moored alongside a rice paddy on the waterway to Alleppey, Kerala India. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (c)2002.

 

Kettuvallams are the large houseboats covered in intricate bamboo and palm leaves. Everything is tied together with coir or rope made from coconut fibers. From what I recall, there is not a single nail or screw holding these canoe planks together…just the coir. These larger Kerala boats are in the 60-70′ length with a 15′ beam. The houseboats are converted barges and designed for the tourist industry. The pace is slow and leisurely, which is ideal for anyone birdwatching, photographing the local riverscape or wishing to just take in the journey and relax all day long and night.

Kerala Waterways are hot, humid and immensely beautiful under the blazing Indian sun. It is easy to spot kingfishers, sea eagles, water snakes and water rats. Fish jump and birds skim the surface seeking insects.

Along the shore people wash dishes, shower or bathe. Bamboo outhouses line the river. The waters are brackish. Salt water from the sea doesn’t penetrate the intracoastal waters due to a natural and artificially supported breakwater. The lakes, lagoons and rivers are fed by mountain streams inland.

At night, just after sunset, women in a stunning array of jewel tones sarees walk single file along the river. The rich color against the palm frond backdrop is perfectly reflected in the silvery water is simply beautiful to behold.

Kerala boats; women in sarees along the Kerala waterways India. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

Kerala boats; women in sarees along the Kerala waterways India. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-KolatkarĀ (c)2002.

Converted rice barge for Kerala Tourism. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (c)2002.

Kerala boat: Converted rice barge for Kerala Tourism. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (c)2002.

Scenic Kerala Waterways at sun down. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (c)2002.

Scenic Kerala Waterways at sun down. Photography by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (c)2002.


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