Chettinad - The Land of Heritage & Devotion 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 the place, 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. The courtyard serves as the venue for the many ceremonies that the community performs from births to weddings to death.

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: Ukkarai, Kandarappam, Karupatti Paniyaram, Kavanarisi, Pal Paniyaram, Thenkuzhal and Seepu seedai and many more.

Arts & Crafts

The arts of Chettinad occupy a distinct position in South Indian folklore. Wood carving, silver embellishment, woven saris, palm-leaf baskets, gold jewellery, hand-made tiles, architectural styles, refined cuisine and egg plastering are among their more visible contributions to the wide-ranging repertoire of Indian arts and crafts. Chettinad baskets has a special attraction as they have intricate patterns made with date-palm leaves. These patterns are as fine as the embroidery and are the specialty of the Chettiar community. As the house they live emphasise the lifestyle that is larger than life, so does the Chettinad weddings. Earlier it was a week in duration which in course time has now shrunk to three days. The hospitality, the jewels for bride and bridegroom, the food varieties, are all special to the occasion. Generally they conduct the weddings in their own houses. The Nagarathars have the custom of tying the kalzutheeru as the mangalasutra or the thali, which is made of gold and covered with diamonds. The pedant in the thali represents the house and the red spot the holy KumKum.

The Main Places of Interest in Chettinadu

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.

Athangudi Tiles

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.

Nagara Koil

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.