The Chettinad region of the southern state of Tamil Nadu is located in the Sivaganga and Pudukottai districts. The Nattukottai Chettiars or Nagarathar community that resides here were originally wealthy traders and bankers who traveled through the south-east Asian countries in search of commerce. From their travels, they brought back things of great value and beauty.With the money they earned, they also built magnificent mansions that were lavish and featured decor elements from different nations. These mansions had intricately-carved grand entrance doors and highly decorative inner central courtyards surrounded with imported Burmese teak wooden pillars. You wouldn’t be surprised to find Belgian stained-glass windows, French chandeliers or Italian marble flooring here either. The dowry of the brides would often include thick enameled kitchen pots from Czech that still look amazingly new.
With a majority of Chettiars migrating to the big cities over the years, many of these mansions have fallen into disrepair and the contents sold out to local antique shops. You can find numerous artifacts ranging from beautiful lampshades from England being sold along with interesting-looking decor items from Indonesia, snuff boxes from Romania, cast iron cookware and huge Burmese teak pillars as well in these shops. In fact, a visit to Karaikudi town in Chettinad could yield some really interesting antiques, where the whole street is dedicated to Chettinad relics and artifacts.
Aside from this, Chettinad is also famous for its beautiful hand-crafted Athangudi tiles which can be used for walls, ceiling or flooring. They are made with intricate colorful patterns and you can even give your own design and have them custom-made as per your preference. Many of the Chettinad mansions boast of these beautifully made Athangudi tiles, an art form which sees its origin in the Athangudi village of the Chettinad region.
Another art which is unique to the Chettinad region is the outstanding Chettinad sari which is handwoven into bold checks and stripe patterns. It was earlier woven using thick cotton keeping in mind the warm local climate as well as the draping style of earlier days which didn’t include a blouse. The modern Chettinad saris are however available in finer silks and cotton to suit the more refined modern tastes. A lady’s wardrobe simply isn’t complete without one of these saris!
Chettinad is also famous for its culturally-rich temples and amazing cuisines, so when planning a trip, you could stay over in Pudukottai at the Chidambara Vilas hotel, which is a century-old renovated palace and enjoy the real feel of its warm embrace. The area is well-connected with good highways and railway along with an airport in neighboring Trichy.