Experience Travel

Planning to visit the Chettinad region? For the heritage enthusiast, there are loads to see!

The pillared hall at the Periya Veedu in Athangudi  

Chettinad, which gets its name from the cluster of 75-odd villages occupied by the Nattukottai Chettiar community, is known for its splendid mansions and temples.

Visiting Chettinad, also well-known for its antiques, makes for a different kind of outing. Then there are the stories of crumbling yet vibrant mansions, forgotten traditions, and of younger generations that have moved away to other parts of the world.

Many of the mansions are unoccupied but far from crumbling, and left in charge of caretakers, who charge a nominal fee to let tourists explore them. Those families that do not wish to throw open their doors to the public, keep their premises under lock and key. But because these mansions tower over the compound walls, it offers the visitor a chance to soak in the exterior beauty of these grand homes. The Chettinad Palace’s exterior, with its stark white walls that contrast with accents in vivid primary colours, is arresting and worth a visit.

The inside world

There are many features that are common to most of these stately structures. The use of coloured glass in the door and window panes, stucco work on the roof fashioned like gods, goddesses, elephants and other mythical beings (colour painted in detail), iron gates painted bright silver, decorative railings and awnings, all contribute to the grand stature of these buildings.

Exquisite ceiling covered in embossed craftsmanship at Athangudi

Exquisite ceiling covered in embossed craftsmanship at Athangudi  

Some of the most opulent mansions in this area are in and around Karaikudi, Kanadukathan, Athangudi and Devakottai. The Periya Veedu at Athangudi is among the most well preserved homes open to the public. From the black-and-white Athangudi tiled flooring to the exquisite ceiling covered in embossed craftsmanship, the place leaves you lost for words. Bevelled glass mirrors from Murano, teak and lacquerware from Burma, vie for attention, as one walks through the mansion. Here and there, there are columns and window frames brightened with flower motifs inspired from Baroque paintings.

A colourful ancient house at Kanadukathan

A colourful ancient house at Kanadukathan  

CVRM and CVCT house are twin homes belonging to different members of the same family. Only one of them is open for viewing, and the lady who looks after the place points out the various objets d’art and shows the view of the village from the terrace. The large homes belonging to Meenakshi Meyappan and her parents always welcome visitors. The colours of these homes range from the natural brick and weather-aged brown, to those that are gaily painted to include pinks, lilacs and mint.

Temple trail

The temple gopurams too carry this sort of vibrancy. The Chettiar families continue to maintain and patronise a large number of temples in the region. The insides of these temples are clean and there is no one demanding alms. The thepakulams beside the temple are well constructed and add to their beauty.

The Pillayarpatti temple

The Pillayarpatti temple  

The Pillayarpatti rock temple, home to the famous Karpagavinayagar, attracts a steady stream of people through the day. The Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple (Shiva temple) is being restored, yet is open to visitors. Both temples stand as a proud testament to the stone work done by artisans. The Kundrakudi Murugan temple is another place of worship worth visiting.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 7:29:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/chettinad-region-still-throws-up-surprises-for-the-heritage-lover/article22962645.ece

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