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Chettinad villages and houses

Villages and Houses

Past glory

Chettinad is a region in Tamil Nadu in south India which is made up of 70 odd villages that seem almost stuck in time.

The name comes from the caste of traders, Chettiars, mostly bankers and financiers who did most of their business in the 19th and early 20th century in south east Asia and with the British Raj.

The villages reflect a rich and affluent past through the huge and ornate mansions, built with no expense spared on ornate carvings, teak pillars, and gaudy colours. It looks like each of the houses were built to outdo their neighbours, in terms of outward signs of affluence. Many tourists, apparently by-pass Chettinad for the more popular destinations of Madurai and Chennai, so it is largely pretty quiet here.

 

Temples

There are many Hindu temples scattered throughout the villages, adorned with the brightly-coloured carved statues that we are used to, but in Chettinad they are almost outdone by the ornate mansions.

The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Devakottai is famous for the 108 statues of Vinayakar. Karpaga Vinayakar, Kundrakudi Murugan, Nagara Koil, Kottaiyur Sivan, and Kandanur Sivan, Vairavan Kovil, and Iraniyur temples are among the other famous temples of Chettinad, according to Maharaja Express.

Grandeur

Although some of the houses have been sympathetically restored to their past glories and most in this case are now luxury and heritage hotels, many are crumbling remnants of what they once were.

Walking around the villages, which are mostly almost deserted, one can see the crumbling remnants of the past through the over-sized opulence that once was.

Food & Drink

If you like a beer or a glass of wine, then you may be out of luck here as there is a rule that hotels with fewer than 21 rooms are not allowed to serve alcohol and some do not allow you to bring alcohol onto their premises.

Food here is good and the best is served on a banana leaf, with lots of different dishes, textures, colours and flavours.

The most notable dish is probably Chicken Chettinad, a fiery hot curry, but there are also some excellent sea food, the best of which comes directly from Rameshwaram in the very southern point of India. Meen kuzhambu is a fragrant fish curry, crab and prawn masala and the coconut scented dhals and chutneys are delicious.

Final thoughts & recommendations

Chettinad is a nice destination for tourism, especially if you like architecture, but at times it almost felt that we weren’t in India at all and that is difficult to explain. As most of the hotels here are the more expensive heritage styles, they can be expensive, so it may be that if you are on a budget that it may be difficult to find a place to stay in the heart of Chettinad.

That said, transport is cheap in India and most people probably don’t stay too long here.

There are some very interesting sites away from the mansions and villages such as Ellangudipatti, which is a unique experience, so too is Narthamalai, all within striking distance from Chettinad and definitely not to be missed.

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