The Chettinad region comprises of 74 villages located close to Trichy in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. While the flavorsome cuisine of the Chettinad region is famous all over the country, the Chettinad style of architecture and interior decoration is spellbinding as well.The landowning Nattukottai Chettiars who lived here in the last century were merchants who traveled far and wide in search of commerce. With the wealth they earned, they bought things of great beauty and used them in the huge mansions that they built back home. These mansions were built on a luxurious scale from anywhere near 70,000 to 1,20,000 square feet area.
The Chettiar homes are designed in accordance with Vastu Shastra using local materials and layouts that relate well to the local semi-arid climate. Each home boasted of a minimum of two interior courtyards surrounded with deeply-shaded verandas that opened out into rooms. This allowed ample cross-ventilation to keep the homes cool during the blistering summers. The first courtyard was reserved for entertaining guests and hosting ceremonies and festivities. Accordingly, these courtyards or central halls had an elaborate interior decoration that boggles the mind. You can find chandeliers from France, stained glass and mirrors from Belgium, marble from Italy, teak from Burma, etc.
The walls have exquisite decorative plasterwork that still gleams exquisitely in the few mansions that are being well-maintained today. The plaster is made of finely-ground seashells, egg whites and lime and this gives the walls a mirror-like sheen and deflects off the summer heat.
The pillars in the central courtyards were usually made of intricately-carved granite or highly-polished Burmese teak that added to the elegance of the interior décor. The flooring is also embellished with locally-made decorative Athangudi tiles. These handmade tiles inculcate heritage Indian designs popular over the past centuries. Colorful patterns of tiles were used to differentiate the various parts of the home. These exquisitely designed tiles are even applied on the ceilings to create opulent patterns that are sure to leave you speechless with their sheer magnificence.
There is heavy use of elaborate glittering chandeliers and colorful window-panes that create magical images within the home. The grand entrance doors to these homes are also made of Burmese teak and heavily decorated with elaborate carvings depicting mythological stories.
Since most of these mansions are slowly going to ruin, the best way to enjoy the beauty of these Chettinad homes is to visit the Chidambara Vilas heritage hotel in Pudukkottai which is a century-old renovated Chettinad palace resplendent in its magnificent elaborate glory. It is located 60km from Trichy airport and easy to access by road too.