Chettinad diaries

The number of weavers in Chettinad is dwindling  

Weavers’ colony

A once-thriving colony of over 2000 families has been reduced to a mere handful of weavers who work on the hand-operated looms. But the Chettinad cotton saris remain popular for their vibrant colours and traditional patterns.

The bright colours of Chettinad cottons

The bright colours of Chettinad cottons  

S Subbaraman, of Senthil Kumar Textile (Karaikudi) and Krishnaveni of Sri Mahalakshmi Handloom weaving centre (Kanadukathan) have put in a lot of effort to ensure the continuance of this craft. The designs — comprising small and large checks, stripes contrasting with traditional borders depicting rudraksh and elephant motifs — make these saris different. Krishnaveni’s granddaughter mimics her every word and is already adept at entertaining the customers.

Contact V Krishnaveni at 9488567554/04565273286 and S Subburaman at 9842421609 or 04565220389

Athangudi Tiles

Tiles made at Athangudi are easily identified by the glossy finish, colour and patterns. At Sri Ganesh Tiles, we witnessed the fascinating process of making the tiles, which involved mixing, filling, curing and polishing. The workers use either a free-hand technique or a metal template depending on the order.

The making of an Athangudi tile

The making of an Athangudi tile  

According to the craftspeople, a free-hand tile has to be crafted by a single person in order to retain consistency of design even if it means creating over 1000 pieces. The mirror finish on these tiles is said to last for decades and is widely used in palatial homes throughout the area.

Contact Sri Ganesh Flower Tiles at 9486289875 or 04565281775

Pallathur Sandhai

Weekly markets (sandhai) are popular in Chettinad. I got a surprise at the Pallathur sandhai, a 20 minute drive from Karaikudi. It sold fresh fish, which apparently arrives from Rameshwaram on Friday afternoons.

Stalls selling fresh fish at Pallathur Sandhai

Stalls selling fresh fish at Pallathur Sandhai  

As we arrived at the clearing designated for parking, we were assailed by fishy aromas. However, we got accustomed to the smell in a few minutes and were able to walk around to view what was on display. We spotted crabs, prawns, whiting, sardines and seer fish. I then head a vendor shouting out that he had boneless fish for sale and was completely taken by surprise to see that he had a small catch of stingray displayed on the banana leaf before him. Do people really eat that?

Chettinad shopping

Karaikudi has some unique things to attract shoppers. Behind the Koppadi Amman temple on kalukatti (street) are rows of shops selling traditional kitchen and home accessories in wood, copper,brass and steel. I happily added a wooden idiappam ladle and brass wicker pulls.

Antique enamel ware of all shapes and sizes

Antique enamel ware of all shapes and sizes  

The vendors are very respectful and keep a polite distance. Just off the main street is MM Road (known as antique street) where traders sell antiques that have been sold from the ancestral homes in the area. Visitors here are spoilt for choice. Most of the artefacts are brand new and bargaining is allowed. Enamel ware of all shapes and sizes, doorknobs, steel trunks and safes, intricate brass lamps, glass bottles, exquisite wooden furniture ... the list is endless. A trip to Chettinad cannot be complete without indulging in this one-of-a-kind retail therapy!

Contact Raghavendra Arts at 09842430444 and Sakkul Hamithi 9360220329 or 7548884847

Heritage homestays

Of the many heritage mansions in the area, three are popular as heritage homestays: The Bangala , Visalam and Saratha Vilas. All offer an authentic experience of the lifestyle of the Nattu Kottai Chettiar community.

At The Bangala, guests get to interact with the owner Meenakshi Meyyappan who grew up in the area. The staff too take a lot of care whether the guests are asking for help with the menu or with sightseeing.

Memorabilia dots the grounds of Visalam

Memorabilia dots the grounds of Visalam  

Visalam, named after the owner’s daughter Visalakshi, is managed by CGH Earth. The grounds are dotted with artefacts and memorabilia. They also offer food plated in a traditional manner and organise tours in the Kanadukathan area.

Friends who stayed at the Saratha Vilas spoke of the beautiful interiors and the various packages on offer. They also organise yoga retreats, nature walks and tours to those interested.

For reservations, contact,,

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 5:52:47 PM |

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