Exploring Chettinad

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The region of Chettinad is located in the central part of the State of Tamil Nadu (South India).

The main town of the region is Karaikkudi, which is 90 km from the major sites of the state, such as Thanjavur (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Tiruchirapalli and Madurai.

Chettinad region, spreading over the districts of Sivagangai and Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu is becoming increasingly part of the popular tourist destination thanks to the magnificent Raja’s palace in Kanadukathan, and French Art-Deco style palatial homes scattered across the towns and villages of the Region. However, beyond these iconic elements, what makes the charm of the towns and villages of Chettinad is perhaps the beauty of an overall village landscape created by the harmony of architectural elements and urban planning.

Trail Type & Level – Shuttle, Walk & Easy (Shuttle by van)

Join the trip to enjoy &

  • Experience the mansion as a place of stay.
  • Experience the taste of Chettinad cuisine.
  • Learn how the spatial morphology of built form is influenced by its culture.
  • Learn the social life of the traders.
  • Explore the art and craft culture in the surrounding areas.
  • Explore the monumental artwork and sculptures at Pillayarpatti and Kunnakudi temples.
  • Experience Aathangudi traditional tile making factory.
  • Taste the mighty “Sharbath”.

Detailed  plan:

Chettinad Urban plan :Day 1 – Our trip starts after breakfast with a discussion on how the urban settlements over the Chettinad sprouted up comprising of 96 villages (currently 73) in the surrounding boundaries. Also we would be discussing, various socio-cultural factors that influenced the art and architecture of the Chettinad building. Chettinad comprises of a network of 73 villages and 2 towns forming clusters spread over a territory of 1,550 km2 in the Districts of Sivagangai and Pudukottai in the State of Tamil Nadu.

All the Chettiar settlements possess outstanding physical characteristics of urban and land-use planning with their South-North/East-West grid pattern, including water system, and the development of palatial architecture which depict a unique cultural interchange of cultures with influences from all over the world and the combination of the vibrant Tamil traditions. These settlements and the architecture, built from 1850’s to 1940’s, are directly associated with the rich living heritage specific to the Chettiar community.

Chettinadu Architecture: DAY 1

Chettinad possesses some outstanding physical characteristics of architectural planning which create a unique ensemble with thousands of palatial houses. This ensemble reflects the way the Hindu Tamil community of Chettiars lived. As the result of their travels, they have integrated multiple influences into the Tamil traditions. This blend represents the uniqueness of Chettinad. 

Chettinad architecture is also closely linked to the life cycle rituals of the Chettiar community. The mansions were conceived to perform the different functions, rituals and family celebrations during the course of life from birth to death. In addition to the lifecycle rituals, the temple and village festivals are part of the Chettiar culture forming a large set of rituals all over the Tamil year.

The main courtyard is considered as the centre part of the house where the rituals are taking place. Each space in the house was planned both for receiving daily functions and occasionally hosting rituals.

It is to be noted the importance of the cooking area in the Chettiar house where many cooks were hired at the occasion of the celebrations. This way the Chettiars have elaborated a sophisticated cuisine taking recipes from South India and from the countries where they have developed their business shaping a blend and creating an original stylish cuisine.

Athangudi Tile making Workshop: DAY 1

Athangudi tiles are one of the well-known handicrafts in Karaikudi region located in Tamil Nadu. The craft has been practiced for the last 500 years. Athangudi tiles are handmade tiles which are used to decorate the interiors (floors, walls etc.) of houses. The craft is popularly known as ‘Pokal’ (local language) in Tamil Nadu. This living art is practiced from Vishwakarma Community.

The tile making is one of the traditional art of Karaikudi. The tiles made are very distinctive and have glossy finishing. Tiles have traditional as well modern motifs. These handmade tiles are very beautiful and unique in their style and are painted using vivid colors. Athangudi tiles are in demand not only in domestic market but also in international market. 

Join us, after lunch, to one of the most exciting process of tile making at Athangudi!!!

Pillayarpatti & Kunrakudi temples: DAY 2

We start our day with the visit to two most important temples in the region.

Pillaiyarpatti is situated 12 Kms. from Karaikudi which is the prime town of Chettinadu. As there is a famous Pillaiyar temple, the village takes it name as Pillaiyarpatti. The temple is a rock cut temple and the sanctum sanctorum is inside a cave. This temple 1600 years old. This deity is believed to be the benefactor of all the business community and every one from this community apportion a small percentage of their income as their offering to this deity and they also ensure excellent maintenance and upkeep of the temple through regular contributions and care. There is a beautiful temple tank in front of the temple and there is an entrance from the east side also. There is a small shrine outside the temple above a small rock.

Enroute to Pillayair patti from Karaikudi 3 Kms before, is a Murugan temple atop a small hillock.This place is called Kundra kudi . One has to climb a fleet of stairs cut in the rock itself to reach the temple. It would take about 10 minutes to reach the top . The temple is about 1000years old and is situated at a height of 200 feet from ground level. The famous violinist Kunnakudi Vaidya nathan hailed from this place.

Adaptive Re-use and Authentic Chettinad Cuisine: DAY 2

We stop for an authentic chettinad lunch at the BANGLA, which is also a former chettinad mansion. You could see the grandeur of the house and also have some discussions over Lunch. 

After lunch we proceed to Kadiapatti CHidambara Vilas – one of the recent conversions(architecturally we call it as adaptive – reuse). A former residence now converted to a star hotel. We take a look at it for a while and could have an activity or coffee arranged. 

Fort complex at Thirumayam: DAY 2

We close our trip with the final stop over at Thirumayam fort. The Thirumayam Fort is a 40-acre wide fortress in the town of Thirumayam in Pudukkottai-Karaikudi Highway in Pudukkottai District, Tamil Nadu, India. It was constructed by Vijaya Raghunatha Sethupathi, the Raja of Ramnad in 1687. Later the fort was handed over to his brother in law Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman. 

On the top of the rock is a bastion with cannon of British origin. To the south of this Platform is a natural pond. On the southern slope there are two rock cut temples, one of them dedicated to Sri Sathyamurthy-Sri Uyyavanda Nachiar (Vaishnavite) and another to Sri Sathyagireeswarar-Sri Venuvaneeswari (Saivite), Which are historically and religiously more important.

Magnificent palatial houses, beautiful carvings and wood work, important temples and a rich culture and heritage embedded, that should be experienced, rather being read about. 

So come down with us to enjoy this trip and know more about the Chettinad – The indigenous place of the Proletarians. 

Cost: Please check with us.

About KeyTerns: KeyTerns is a thematic group travel designer & an organizer in Nature & Offbeat, Heritage & Culture and Spiritual & Wellbeing for the like minded. We also do personalized / corporate / educational travel.Note: Sequence given is indicative. Itinerary is subject to change. 

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#Chettinad, #Karaikudi, #Pillaiyarpatti, #Palace, #Athangudi

2 reviews for Exploring Chettinad

  1. Rated 5 out of 5


    Appreciation for arranging Chettinad trip

    Karaikudi Heritage stay was great; felt like the best home stay with homely food , nice and welcoming staff, palatial home, relaxing pool and “thinnai” with cool Italian black marbles. Experience enhanced by a cycle trip around the village and a stop over at the nearby potti kadai for a saree and Gopal palpodi purchase . Thanks Keyterns for organising this at short notice and making our stay a good relaxing experience

    ~ Ashok

  2. Rated 5 out of 5


    The Chettinad trip was one of the best tours I’ve done. Karthik (Curator) gave us an in-depth insight into the architecture, social customs and culture of the Chettiar community. Extremely patient, he answered all our questions and it was truly fascinating to hear the details from him. Thanks.

    I have already recommended this your to my friends.

    ~ Suchitra

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