Chettinad is a region located in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu. It once consisted of 94 vibrant villages, but that number has now dwindled down to 75. The Nattukottai Chettiars who lived in this region belonged to a business and banking community; they generated their wealth by trading with the south-eastern nations.
With the wealth they amassed, they built massive mansions. They brought back materials of great beauty and included them in the building of their palatial homes. It would be no surprise to find exquisitely carved Burmese teak pillars lining the inner courtyards or stained glass from England for their windows. Most of these prosperous Nattukottai Chettiars have moved out of Chettinad now and only visit their mansions for festivities.
To experience the best in Chettinad architecture, you should visit the Chettinad Palace. It is an exquisite coming together of art, architecture, and tradition and offers a remarkable tribute to the rich cultural heritage of this region. It was designed and built by Dr. Annamalai Chettiar in 1912 and still stands tall and proud. Dr. Annamalai is also the founder of the Annamalai University and the Indian Bank.
As with other mansions, materials from European and South-east Asian countries have been used in its construction. The rich teakwood furniture, exquisite marble tiling, Belgian mirrors and chandeliers, carpets and other decorative materials were all imported. Huge wooden pillars and exquisitely carved doors are all made of teakwood imported from Burma. The best part is that the different arts and styles have blended in together perfectly to give the palace an identity that’s totally unique and beautiful.
It is a prime tourist attraction with thousands of people visiting its gracious beauty every year. The floor of the waiting area is covered in exquisite white marble. The meeting hall has numerous family portraits, several pairs of African ivory tusks as well as a gleaming collection of colored crystals. The ceiling is also very artistically designed and eye-catching. There are intricately carved figurines and wooden carvings as well as showpieces from various countries.
The walls are 1.5 to 3 feet thick, ensuring that the palace interiors are always cool. There are a number of interior courtyards serving different purposes and a visit will surely enrich your knowledge of Chettinad traditions.
While visiting the Chettinad region, stay over at the heritage Chidambara Vilas hotel which is a palatial renovated Chettinad mansion that offers an authentic experience of the sights, sounds, and tastes of this grand region.
Getting here is easy as there are excellent rail and road connectivity with closeby Trichy offering the nearest airport.