The Chettinad region in southern Tamil Nadu is fascinating. It is famous for its rich cuisine, grand mansions, unique saris and rich cultural heritage. Home to the rich Chettiars who once dominated this region, you will find numerous huge mansions built by them during the 19th century. According to legend, these Chettiars were great businessmen living in the coastal plains of present-day Tamil Nadu, dealing in salt and gems in the Chola Empire.
They then migrated inland and settled down into 96 villages in and around Karaikudi. They continued to prosper by trading with south-east Asian countries and amassed great wealth which they used to construct huge palace-like homes back in the Chettinad region. These mansions are marvelous edifices built with materials from all over the world; teak pillars from Burma, ceramic pottery from Czechoslovakia, marble tiles from Italy, stained glass windows from Europe, etc.
In the twentieth century, many of these wealthy Chettiars moved away from Chettinad, leaving behind their rich mansions. Aside from these mansions, you should also plan on visiting the many traditional craftsmen. Here are some popular tourist attractions of this region:
Considered to be one of the seven wonders in India, it is a must-visit destination for its awe-inspiring art, architecture and tradition.
Kamban Mani Mandapam
Dedicated to the late Tamil poet, Kavi Chakravarthy Kamban, it is famous for the many annual literary programs being conducted here.
Periya Minor’s Veedu
Embellished with Italian floor tiles, magnificently carved teak pillar and a Spanish tiled roof, this impressive mansion is not to be missed.
You can actually watch the craftsmen at work as they create each individually-patterned terracotta tile by hand. Visit Athangudi and its popular tile cottage factories.
Sri Meenakshi Sundeswarar Temple
Located in Devakottai, this temple is famous for its renowned 108 statues of Vinayaka.
You shouldn’t miss this town for its amazing shopping opportunities for hand-woven Chettinad saris and artifacts and treasures from the bygone era of the rich Chettiars.
Getting to Chettinad is easy as it’s well-connected by road and railway, with the nearest airport being 60km away at Trichy. Stay over at the century-old Chidambara Vilas hotel (a renovated Chettinad palace!), for that authentic experience of Chettinad cuisine, culture and hospitality!