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Making of houseboat

Known as jewel of Dal Lake, the boat passes through various skilled hands before it is ready for use

Post by on Sunday, September 19, 2021

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Though houseboats are found in several parts of country including Kerala, Assam, Goa, Tarkali (Maharashtra), Chunnambar (Pondicherry), Udupi (Karnataka), Konaseema (Andhra Pradesh) and Sundarban (Kolkata), however the boats in Srinagar are unique in style and making, attracting national and international tourists hugely. The boat owners believe that being matchless in India and abroad, tourists often prefer to stay inside other than three-star and five-star hotels located on the banks of Dal Lake and its peripheries.
“If we observe tourists prefer to stay in hotels outside J&K while in Srinagar they prefer to stay in houseboats”, Mohammad Yaqoob Dhoon, spokesperson Houseboat Owners Association told Rising Kashmir.
Terming boats “jewel” of Dal Lake, Yaqoob maintained “the hospitality and care by boat staffers prompt tourists to stay there”.
“They feel there like they are staying in their own homes”, he said and added, “This way the tourists come to know the local culture and tradition for which Kashmir is worldly famous”.
Besides hospitality, there is style and making of houseboats which persuade tourists to opt houseboats for short stays.
Yaqoob divulged how houseboats are being constructed and provide details about the exclusive manpower (carpenters) being used in it.
According to Yaqoob, the houseboat is exclusively being constructed at some ‘land mass’ within the waters as it gets easy for the owner to push the boat into the Lake after completion.
Initially we procure “bottom logs” in local dialect called “waan-e-koot” which are being placed on open surface on land mass and an exclusive carpenter is being hired for the job, he said.
The carpenter starts to build surface on these “bottom legs”, he said and added “the normal size of the boat remains 130 feet while its width remains 25 or 30 feet”. He added in local dialect the bottom surface of the boat is called “Dalav”. However after completion of Dalav, the Hull (Pashh) is being built on the right and left side of the boat. To ensure the job the service of an exclusive carpenter also being hired here is called “waan-e-chaan”.
After completion of right and left side walls of the boat from front deck to back deck, it entirely is being called “Nav-e-Nour”, he said.
According to local tradition, after completing “Nav-e-Nour”, the boat owner invites relatives and neighbors for the conduct of a function. “The event is majorly aimed at to push the Nav-e-Nour into the Lake from land mass”, Yaqoob added.
He said once the half constructed boat called “Nav-e-Nour” enters into the Lake, an exclusively carpenter locally called as “Nav Chaan” is being hired to take on the further work. “The Nav Chaan works on to construct outside structure of the boat including windows, doors, railing design etc to beautify the boat”, he said.
Later on the boat owner hires another special carpenter for the job in making interior furniture including bed, chairs, dining table, sofa, coffee table etc.
Once it completes, the boat owner calls one more special carpenter for making “khatamband” (ceiling) in the boat. “The khatamband is being done in sitting rooms, dining room, bed rooms and corridor, front deck etc”, Yaqoob said.
While expressing further technicalities in making the houseboat, Yaqoob said to ensure safety of the boat from getting sunk, the boat owner brings special grass including ‘bhang’ and ‘peacxh’ and mixed it to each other to make a rope of it which is being placed in between the gap of two plugs in the bottom. “This is being done to stop the influence of lake water into the boat and for this purpose a special carpenter called “sankara” is being hired.
Once making of interior furniture ends, the boat owner calls plumber for sanitary work who fits taps and other required accessories in bathrooms and pantry. Also electriciann does his job at the moment. The last one remains furnishing inside the boat for which boat owner searches superior quality of wall-to-wall carpets and other furnishing items to make the boat not less than of 3-star hotel.
The houseboats in Srinagar is being made up with superior quality wood called “cedar” (deodar) which according to Yaqoob costs 5000 to 6000 rupees per sq ft, while wood for khatamband costs 2500 to 3000 rupees per sq ft.
Normally one houseboat is having two to five bedrooms, sitting and dining room, attached washrooms and pantry which costs three to four crore of rupees approximately.
However, being a sensitive part of the Dal Lake the Government of J&K had in its budget announced after abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A), assured boat owners that bio-digesters will be installed in each boat keeping the conservation of Dal into account.
“The 80% of amount pertaining to bio-digesters will be provided by Government while 20% has to bear by boat owners”, the Government in recent budged clarified.
Yaqoob admitted that all boat owners are ready to abide the directions issued by Government for the larger interest of Dal and Nigeen Lakes however added, “without houseboats there is no worth of Dal Lake”.
He said we have Wular, Mansbal and other lakes here but why tourists only prefer Dal Lake because of the landscape that attracts them to be here.
It is worth to mention there are 911 houseboats at present in Dal, Nigeen, Chinar Bagh and Jhelum among dozens are waiting for repairs. The J&K High Court in year 2010 barred houseboat owners for resorting to any kind of repair work, citing it will influence the fragile environment of lake. However under new policy the houseboat owners have been allowed to repair the needed houseboats under certain conditions.
“So far no houseboat has been repaired under new policy,” Yaqoob said and added, “The incumbent Director of Tourism assured boat owners that dockyard established at Kohnakhan and Nigeen lake will be restored by the end of this month”.
According to well-known poet and historian Zareef Ahmad Zareef, after ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ the Dogra rulers didn’t permit visitors to stay here at one place for more than twenty-days. He said the visitors were evacuated by the then army of Dogra’s fearing the occupation of outsiders.
He said in year 1905 when Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh was governing the state a visitor Mr. Canard came here and built a ‘boathouse’ in Rajbagh area with an aim to stay here for long. “When Dogra army visited him to move out, the Canard was moving his boat few steps away”, Zareef said.
He added Canard’s boathouse still exist in Jhelum in Rajbagh area and is in a dilapidated condition. He also added the visitors even used to move houseboat even to wular and other lakes of valley.
The historian while continuing said from 1916 onwards a Pandit, Narayan Koul of Rainawari was the first who built houseboats for selling purpose and being associated with the trade he was later on famous for ‘Naw-e-Narain’.
“Those built houseboats were called Chill and were staying at Rahbab Saheb’s Genzkhud in Srinagar district and those decorated the interiors of houseboats were called Basmaet and were residing in Safakadal”, Zareef added.
Zareef further added that earlier houseboats were stationed only in ‘weath’ but after Sheikh Abdullah took over the reins of J&K, his favorites and blue eyed elements occupied the Dal for acquiring space for houseboats.

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