Chettinad is a famous region located in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu. The Nattukottai Chettiars of this region were wealthy businessmen and traders who traveled to the south and south-east Asia in their quest for commerce. Before that, this prosperous community was involved in salt and spices trade, an aspect that is reflected in their fragrant cuisine.
With the wealth they amassed, they built opulent mansions with exotic materials brought in from various foreign countries. These palatial homes have even received UNESCO nomination as homes of historical and cultural value. The Chettiars also used their wealth judiciously and built temples and educational and banking institutions and set-up social reforms to build up their community.
Chettinad is also famous for its individualistic sarees. Known as the Kandaangi sarees, they are coarse weaves in cotton – and more recently, in silk. Weavers from Karnataka moved down to the Chettinad region more than 150 years ago to produce this cotton fabric as per the requirements of the Chettiars. The Kandaangi sarees are woven in bright colors like red, orange and yellow in contrast with the dull, arid landscape of this drought-prone area. The design of these sarees is unique and is typically stripes or checks and comes with wide borders, with some sarees even having borders that cover two-thirds of its width.
The coarse cotton Kandaangi saree was designed keeping in mind that in its heydays, the saree was worn differently without a blouse or a petticoat. The width of the Kandaangi saree at that time was just 91cm; however, it’s now 120cm and conforms to the width of the standard for regular sarees. The change in this Chettinad brand of sarees has been gradual with newer designs being introduced as well as changes in colors and use of materials. These changes were necessary to conform to the changing times and to stay ahead in the field of hand-woven sarees. The Kandaangi saree has still managed to maintain its originality and sustained demand.
These hand-woven Kandaangi sarees are available in Karaikudi town and are very much in demand. If you are interested in adding a unique Kadaangi saree or two to your collection, then getting to Karaikudi is very easy.
It’s located on the Trichy – Rameshwaram highway and has great train connectivity too. The closest airport is in nearby Trichy, around 75km away. You could stay over at the heritage Chidambara Vilas hotel and enjoy the authentic Chettiar way of life here. It’s a renovated grand Chettinad mansion that offers an insight into their lifestyle.