It is a place that enchants and enhances the soul. Chettinad is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars called the Nagarathars, are a prosperous banking and business community. It is a tourist's paradise with a difference, and one which certainly cannot be missed by the discerning tourist. A stray thundershower adds to the charm of theplace, churning up the red soil, and filling up the temple tanks.The palatial mansions, makes Chettinad a place of rare charm, and a must visit destination.Chettinad Houses Chettinad, rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, is well known for its houses, that are embellished with marble and Burma teak. The houses have wide inner courtyards and spacious rooms.The grandly and wonderfully embellished houses were created reflect the prosperity of the Nagarathar community. The basic design comprises of a "thinnai" which is an enclosed courtyard and this is surrounded by family rooms. The walls are smooth and are made of special plaster.The plaster involves the application of the finely ground mixture of powdered shell, lime, jaggery and spices, including gallnut (myrobalan), to walls. This technique keeps the interior of the house cool during the hot and humid Indian summers and lasts a lifetime.The architectural structure of a typical Chettiar home is a study in how a human dwelling can be constructed in harmony with nature. High ceilings, airy and well ventilated, the house has one courtyard near the entrance leads to the imposing main door, usually made of wood with extraordinarily intricate carvings of mythological figures.The thinnai is a long narrow raised platform that serves as a meeting place and also as a kind of accomodation for travellers and visitors. The inner courtyard has special significance. It is lined with classically beautiful pillars made out of granite or teakwood. Deliciously Chettinad Among the various South Indian food varieties, the Chettinad style holds a special place for food lovers. Chettinad's food culture provides varieties for both vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Apart from usual and familiar food items they have a list of peculiar snacks items that are delicious and colourful enough to be a temptation to eat. Some of the food items that are made by Nagarathars are the following:kkarai, Kandarappam, Karupatti Paniyaram, Kavanarisi, Pal Paniyaram, Thenkuzhal and Seepu seedai and many more. Arts & Crafts
The nearest airport is at Madurai, 90 km away, from where you can take direct flights to Chennai.
The major railway station is Karaikudi, connecting Chettinad to Chennai and the other prime cities of Tamil Nadu.
Karaikudi, situated near Chettinad, is well-connected by the national highways 45 and 210 with Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore and Chennai.
Sightseeing In Chettinad :
The Chettinad palace
located at Kanadukathaan, built in 1912 opten to visitors Burma teak, granite pillars, stained glass and imported Italian tiles used. - similarly towns like Karaikudi, Pallathur, Athangudi, and Kothamangalam, have the most lavish houses in Chettinad.
Karaikudi is located in Sivagangai district between Thiruchirapalli - Rameswaram High road. It got its name because of the famous plant called "karai" which is widely spread over this area. The famous temple Pillaiyar Patti is 12 kms away from Karaikudi. The city is known for Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, also known as Shiva temple which has 108 statues of Ganapathi. Sekkalai is located at the northeast of Karaikudi, and was known as Jain Kunda Puram. In the North-east of Karaikudi is Muthu Pattinam which is known for Muthu Mariamman Temple. At the centre is Kallukatti where the famous temple Koppudaiamman is located. The river Thennar flows through south Karaikudi. "Tamil Thai Kovil," "Kamban Manimandapam," the "Vallal Allagappar Statue," "Kaviaraser Kannadhasan Manimandapam and Statue" brings honour to Karaikudi.
A Superb hand made product made in the nearby village of Atangudi. It was sand, local water cement and Pigments. Its patterns are simple unique and tiles floor very cool to walk on.
The people of Chettinad moved on from their settlement to other villages not far from their first settlement and, there were nine main clusters of villages. To each of them the Pandya King granted a temple in perpetuity. The nine temples thus became the family temple for each group and each cluster evolved as a subdivision of the Chettiars or what might describe as a fraternal clan. The clan temple tradition is that a wedding is recognized only if the bride and bridegroom receive wedding garlands from their respective clan temples. The moment the wedding is registered, the bridegroom becomes a pulli.
The first of the clan temples was in Ilayathangudi and it is 25 kms from Karaikudi on the road to Kunrakudi, passing Nemam, Keelasivalpatti and Avinipatti on the way. It is said to have been granted to the Nagarathars in 707 A.D. The temple is known for its great sculptural value and it has the biggest tank, "oorani" of all other temples. Legend has it, that this was the resting place of the gods and it explains the village's name with a syllable break-up that is as follows: ilaippu meaning tiredness, attru meaning to remove and gudi meaning place.
The Vairavanpatti temple is on the Karaikudi-Madurai road, about 15 kms from Karaikudi. A splendid 19th century temple tank is testimony to Dravidian architectural skills. Behind the Nagarathar choultry Vairava Theertham, a sacred spring said to have miraculous powers. The temple has 23 bronzes, all dating to the first renovation, and 12 vahanams. The temple also has several striking wall paintings, 37 on the Vairava Puranam and 43 on the Ramayana. There are also painting of scenes from the Mahabharata. The main deities here are Lord Aatkondanathar and Sivapurandevi.
The Soorakudi temple is about 10 kms from Karaikudi on the road to Kanadukathaan and the Chettinad railway station. The soorai shrub also abounds here and is given as an explanation for the name of the village. The temple has ten vimanams and two gopurams. Its rajagopuram to the east, comprises five storeys and is richly embellished. Another striking feature of the temple is the sculptured pillars on the corridor around the shrines of the main deities. This is one of the temples of the Nagarathar clan that is held in high regard for its sculptures.
The last clan temple is the Velankudi temple that is located on the Karaikudi-Thiruchirapalli road, about 10 kms from Karaikudi, in an area abounding in vela trees. With just 46 pullis and a membership of less than 200 in its four villages, this is smallest temple clan among the Nagarathars. A curious feature is that their numbers have not changed for over a hundred years. The result is a temple to which scant attention has been paid towards renovation. The last kumbhabhishekam for the temple was performed in 1937. The temple was granted to the Nagarathars in 718 A.D.
About 25 kms from Karaikudi on the Pillaiyarapatti road, near Keelasivalpatti, is the Iraniyur temple. There are 50 bronzes here, a splendid Nataraja dating to the 12th -13th century period. One of the bronzes belong to the 16th century, another in a 5-metal alloy of the 17th century, a dozen from the 19th century and the rest from the 20th century. Two groups of beautiful paintings grace the Lakshmi mandapam. Opposite the Rajagopuram is one set of paintings done in the Vijayanagar style during the first renovation and another in the 1940s during the second renovation. The latter displays the Ravi Varma influence.
The best known of the Nagarathar clan temples, Pillaiyarpatti, about 12 kms from Karaikudi on the road to Madurai. It attracts visitors in large numbers from all parts of India and abroad. The Karpaga Vinayagar here is a huge bas-relief in a cave hewn out of a hillock and is a splendid example of the art of the South India sculptor. The tall sculpture is more than 6 feet tall and dates back to the 5th Century A.D. The Rajagopuram is on the eastern entrance and rises in five storeys. The temple is rich in stone and terracotta sculptures. There are 30 bronzes in the temple that date from the 10th century. The main deities here are Karpaga Vinayagar, Lord Thiruveswarar and his consort Sivagami.
The Mathur temple is a little over 5 kms from Karaikudi, that can be reached not long after passing Iluppakudi. Burial urns found in the vicinity indicate that there were settlements here more than 1500 years ago. The temple is rich with sculptures, and there is a unique piece at the entrance to the mahamandapam, where the steps, the two flanking elephants and the pedestals for the two doorkeepers have all been hewn from one stone. The nearly 70-foot tall rajagopuram here has been constructed in five storeys. The vizha mandapam or the festival hall in front of the rajagopuram or the main tower, at the entrance was built in 1949 and can seat 500 persons within the hall and another 500 around it. The main deity here is Lord Ainootheswarar and his consort Periyanayaki.
Things to Do in Chettinad :
The Chettinad mansions
You are bound to be intrigued by Chettinad's huge century-old mansions that stretch from one street to another. Nattukottai in Tamil means 'countryside fort'. The mansions, which feature elements of neoclassical and Victorian styles of architecture, are standing symbols of grandeur and opulence.
Village life and countryside
The villages of Chettinad and the surrounding areas are characteristic of rustic and idyllic rural life. Agrarian communities, living and working side by side with artisans and masons, bring fresh produce to weekly markets (known locally as shandys).
Every village in India has a temple but in Chettinad each village has a quite a few temples. There are nine clan temples spread within a 25km radius. Mathur temple, Iranikovil temple, Vairavanpatti temple and Pillaiyarpatti temple are some that have an impressive facade in addition to beautiful interiors. Interestingly there is also a rare Saraswati temple here.
The spicy cuisine of Chettinad has found its way to the menus of many South Indian restaurants across India, but there is no better place to taste local delicacies than right here. From steamed rice noodle cakes (idiyappam) to crunchy deep-fried murukkus to unique Chettinad lamb and chicken dishes to sweets such as seeyam and badam barfis, you are bound to find something that suits your palette or piques your interest.
Rituals and festivals
Every temple has an annual festival called the Thiruvila. It lasts many days and brings the entire village together. The temple deity is brought out in a wooden masterpiece called the Ther and pulled around the temple premises. The Thiruvila ambience -- saturated with song, dance, drama and music -- and infused with devotion and celebration, creates a unique, authentic and unforgettable atmosphere.
Chettinad Art, artefacts and antiques
The Chettiars invested a lot of money not only in their mansions, but also in day-to-day utilitarian, household items. These high-quality items (often made of gold and silver) have now become high-value antiques. Look out for exquisite wood carvings in doors and pillars, glazed clay pots for storage, copper water heaters, paintings from the Ravi Varma school of art and Tanjore paintings, to name a few of the specialities that you will find at heritage accommodations or at the antique market in Karaikudi.
Meenakshi Amman Temple (Madurai)
South India has many grand, majestic and breathtaking temples. Even among those the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple is a jewel. Madurai is about 90km from Karaikudi and therefore can be comfortably managed in a day trip.
In the early part of the 19th century the affluent Chettiars brought home a wealth of ideas and artefacts from their travels overseas. The Athangudi tiles are said to have been inspired by patterned European carpets. But now these tiles have become famous nationwide and are a hallmark of sustainable and eco-friendly flooring. In a little village called Athangudi, you can see how these tiles are produced.
Hand looms are popular in most South Indian villages. Chettinad handloom saris (Kandangi saris) are made of coarse cotton made for rough washes. They generally come in earthy colours such as red, orange, brown and chrome. A visit to a Chettinad handloom or weaving centre will give you new additions to your wardrobe as well as an insight into how these distinctive saris are made.
A little walk around this university campus will make you see and believe how the vision and generosity of one person can transform the lives of a village, city and nation! Karaikudi blossomed with this university.
Chettinad Land of Heritage Devotion Tamilnadu