Undoubtedly a hidden jewel of Tamil Nadu, Chettinad is a city of rich merchants. In the 19th century, a lot of palatial complexes came up, showcasing a perfect blend of Western and Eastern architectural styles. These palaces were built by affluent merchants of the city, referred to as ‘Chettiars’. The word ‘Chetti’ means wealth in Sanskrit. These charming and stunningly grand palaces are the identity of this city. Chettinad still enjoys and has retained its irresistible charm and grandeur. Sprawled in a vast expanse of 1550 sq. km. area, the city encompasses 76 villages. A part of Sivagangai district, it is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiar. This merchant community flourished in the 19th century. During this time, trading and banking business flourished and spread far and wide across South East Asia. The city is peppered with little palaces that were the best way for the Chettiars to show their wealth. There are approximately 10,000 palaces all over the city. Many of these palaces have been converted into bijou hotels while some are in a very dilapidated state. Travellers coming to Chettinad love exploring these palaces that gives them an insight into the rich culture, heritage, and history of this lovely town.
Best Time To Visit Chettinad
Chettinad experiences soaring temperatures in summers, making it challenging for visitors to explore the incredible temples, gorgeous palaces, and breathtaking greenery spread around the city. The best time to visit Chettinad is during winters, when venturing outdoors is comfortable. Pleasant weather and moderate climate make exploring the city and its amazing attractions enjoyable. During monsoons, the humidity level is high, which again makes it difficult to stay outdoors for a long time. Thus, plan your trip to this lovely city in winters and come back with wonderful memories.
History of Chettinad
Chettinad, a charming city in Tamil Nadu covers 76 villages from Pudukottai and Sivagangai districts. Chettinad history is rich and can be traced back to the 13th century. This enchanting city of Chettiars or affluent merchants used to belong to the Nagarathar community. Chettiars were prominent traders also associated with weaving, banking, and agriculture sectors. They were dedicated and passionate entrepreneurs in pre-colonial India and helped the city flourish in trade and commerce. The origin of Chettiars is a coastal town, Kaveripoompattinam in the Chola dynasty. By the 13th Century, they migrated to Karaikudi and nearby 96 hamlets and called this place their home.
The Nagarathar or Naatukottai Chettiars came from coastal towns and were urban dwellers. They formed a very strong merchant community and were responsible for making the city culturally rich and affluent. From early occupation of salt trading to maritime trading in Chola rule, they came a long way. They used to trade spices, salt, textiles, gems, jewellery, etc., to Southeast Asian countries. Trading overseas helped them become prosperous and the best way to show their wealth was to construct luxurious palaces. In the 19th Century, a lot of palaces came up built by successful traders. After Britishers came to India, their community ventured into moneylending and banking professions. The present day banking system is immensely inspired by Chettiars’ banking practices. Today, Chettinad is also famous for its mouth-watering cuisines.
Places to Visit in Chettinad
Chettinad is a serene and beautiful city known for its magnificent temples, grand palaces, and verdant beauty strewn all around. Also referred to as the Temple Town of Tamil Nadu, the city landscape is dominated with small but elegant palaces built by erstwhile Chettiars. Besides checking out its palatial homes and opulent palaces, the city has a lot to offer. Have a look at some of the best tourist attractions in Chettinad that will give you a glimpse into its vibrant culture and heritage.
1. Chettinad Palace
Chettinad Palace is an epitome of architectural prowess of erstwhile architects. It is an amazing example of indigenous Chettinad architecture. It is a mighty edifice, beautifully adorned with embellishments. Built in 1912, glimpses of European architectural style can also be seen in this palace. The palace was built by Annamalai Chettiyar, the founder of Annamalai University and the Indian Bank. Vast expanse of lush greens surround the palace adding beauty and charm. Intricate carvings, an eye for details, and opulence has made this palace one of the most visited tourist attractions in Chettinad. The palace is open for visitors from 9 AM to 5 PM.
2. Chettinad Museum
It is a lovely heritage home that has now been converted into a museum. Visitors love exploring this museum and see how erstwhile Chettiars used to lead a royal and luxurious life. Traditional gold jewellery, heavy clothes, metal utensils, grain bins, huge copper water vats, metal cutlery and more are housed in this museum.
3 Chettinadu Mansion
A stunning holiday resort, Chettinadu Mansion is worth exploring and staying when visiting Chettinad. It is a 100-year old mansion located in Kanadukathan. Staying in this heritage resort is the best way to enjoy experiencing erstwhile Chettiars’ way of life. The mesmerising architecture and age-old charm of the mansion give an insight into the luxurious living of people in bygone eras.
Built in the 19th Century, Vairavanpatti is an incredible temple in Chettinad. This temple is dedicated to deities Sivapurandevi and Aatkonandhar. Temple walls are adorned with paintings from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Visitors love checking out the natural spring known for its miraculous healing properties. A lot of devotees visit this temple, located 15 km away from the city.
Chettinad is famous for its seven magnificent festivals. Ilayangudi is one of them. This is a common temple among nine villages located around Karaikudi. Located 25 km from the village, it is the first clan temple of the area. The temple ground is believed to be the resting ground of the Lords.
Named after Lord Ganesha, the Elephant God, this town is famous for Pillayarpatti Karpaga Vinayagar Temple. Lord Ganesha, the Lord of knowledge and wisdom sits in this majestic, rock-cut temple. It was built in typical Pandyan architectural style and is known for its masterful sculpture work. Detailed carvings on its exterior structure leave the visitors stunned with its sheer beauty. It is one of the top places to visit in Chettinad.
7. Athmanathaswamy Temple
Built in the 10th Century, this magnificent temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is visited by thousands of devotees who come here to seek blessings from the deity.
Things to do in Chettinad
Besides providing sensory delights, Chettinad is also famous for its delectable cuisines, cultural heritage, architectural delights and intriguing history. When visiting Chettinad, it is a must to engage in certain activities that help you understand the place better. Have a look at some of these places.
Plan a visit to well-known restaurants in Chettinad to savour some of the most authentic and flavoursome Chettinad cuisines. Rich in spicy and tangy in taste, these cuisines are a treat for every foodie-vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Savour idiyappam, idlis, dosas, pepper chicken and other delights when visiting the city.
Athangudi Tile Factory
Drop in at the Athangudi Tile Factory and check out exclusive hand-made tiles. It is exciting to watch how much time, effort, and labour goes into making one single tile. Mineral oxides and rice husks are used to make these tiles. These are truly eco-friendly tiles.
Karaikudi Antique Market
Let the shopaholic in you let go and indulge in amazing antique shopping. The market looks more like a museum with its visually appealing artefacts and antiques. If you are a Raja Ravi Verma fan, you can look for some rare paintings of the artist. Black and white pictures, old coins, bronze sculptures, and more can be found here.
Chettinad is also known for its sarees. Head to a weaving centre and see how local women painstakingly weave these sarees. These vibrantly coloured cotton sarees are worth having in your wardrobe. Perfect to stay cool but stylish in the summer.
How to Reach Chettinad
The temple city of Tamil Nadu, Chettinad is well connected to all major cities in India as well as the world through various means of transportation. Here’s a detailed list of how you can reach Chettinad through Air, Railways or road depending on your budget and time.
The Madurai airport plies its services through all Domestic Flights. You can easily travel to the city via air as there are regular to and fro flight services from all major cities of India. From Madurai, travel by road or train to reach Chettinad. Cabs and taxis are available outside the airport to reach Temple City.
Distance from Madurai Airport. 166 km
Here is a list of Indian cities from where flights are available to Chettinad
Chettinad Railway Station is the main railway station that connects the city to the rest of India via an excellent network of train services. From the railway station, take a private taxi or bus to reach your destination.
Distance from Chettinad Railway Station. 3 Km
The city of Chettinad is well connected with other cities and states of India through well maintained national and state highways. The city enjoys amazing road connectivity with nearby cities in Tamil Nadu and other states. You can also consider visiting Chettinad by your own vehicle as roads here are pretty safe and well connected.
Ans 1. The city is peppered with little palaces that were the best way for the Chettiars to show their wealth. There are approximately 10,000 palaces all over the city.
Ques 2. Which language is spoken in Chettinad?
Ans 2. Tamil is the predominant language spoken in the city. English is also used in Government establishments.
Ques 3. Which is the best time to visit Chettinad?
Ans 3. Chettinad experiences soaring temperatures in summers, making it challenging for visitors to explore the incredible temples, gorgeous palaces, and breathtaking greenery spread around the city. The best time to visit Chettinad is during winters, when venturing outdoors is comfortable.
Ques 4. Which temples are famous in Chettinad?
Ans 4. Some of the most famous temples in Chettinad are Vairanvatti, Pillaiyerpatti, Ilayathangudi, Athmanathaswamy Temple and more.
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