A Cultural and Heritage Travel Guide on Chettinad

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Frequently Asked Questions by Travellers visiting Chettinad

What is the early history of Chettinad?
Chettinad is a peculiar southern Tamil Nadu region with dramatic stories to tell. It became famous because of the residing community there called Chettiars. The Chettiars were a prosperous community of traders and bankers who played a vital role in the region’s economic growth. Some historians believe that they were traders in Muziris (the iconic port on the Arabian shore), and when it was destroyed, they came to the Chettinad area. 

Chettiyars were brilliant traders, especially in foreign trade and also in micro-financing. They built magnificent mansions known as ‘palaces’ with distinct architecture that reflects their love for art, culture, and tradition. 

The Chettiars were also involved in trade with Southeast Asian countries, and it has been reflected in the cuisine and architecture of the region. We suggest you include Chettinad in your itinerary, especially if you visit Madurai.

What is the colonial heritage of Chettinad?
The colonial era left a significant influence on Chettinad’s culture and heritage. The British established trade relations with the Chettiars and with their help, the British made the area a key trading point.  

The Chettiars also played a crucial role in financing British trade ventures in Southeast Asia. The British influence can be seen in the colonial-style buildings and bungalows, including the famous Chettinad railway station, designed by the British architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm.

What is the cultural importance of Chettinad?

Chettinad is a cultural melting pot which reflects the rich heritage of Tamil Nadu. Chettinad is famous for two remarkable things. One is the delectable Chettinad cuisine. We remember having a fish curry made of thick-flavoured spices in an eatery in Chettinad. 

The second is the slew of abandoned mansions that were built in the 19th century across the regions. It would be best if you saw it to believe it. The Chettinad architecture is a unique blend of Indian and Southeast Asian styles, and the palaces are filled with intricate carvings, sculptures, and frescoes.

Interior of Kanadukathan Palace on of the may mansions in Chettinad
Kanadukathan Palace - One of the many "Chettinad Mansions"

What is the curious story of the abandoned mansions of Chettinad?

Chettinad’s grand mansions, built by the Chettiar community during the 19th and early 20th centuries, are a sight to behold. After the Second World War, the internal business of the Chettiars community was hit hard, and many of them, especially the youngsters, left Chettinad for good, looking for better opportunities.

The mansions were left abandoned. As a result, these opulent mansions faced natural decay and pillaging for valuable materials.

Please click here to read about the “30,000 Abandoned Mansions of Chettinad” here!

How to reach Chettinad?

Chettinad is well-connected by road, rail, and air. The nearest airport is Madurai, about 90 kilometres/56 miles from the region. The nearest railway station is Chettinad railway station, which is well-connected to the major cities in Tamil Nadu. 

Chettinad is also well-connected by road, and several state-run buses and private taxis operate from major cities in Tamil Nadu.

What are the top seven historical and heritage places to see in Chettinad?

a. Chettinad Palace – One of the region’s most magnificent and largest palaces.
b. Athangudi Palace – A unique palace with an elaborate design and intricate carvings.
c. Karpagam Palace – Another beautiful palace with a stunning facade and unique architectural features.
d. Thirumayam Fort – It is a historic fort that offers a glimpse into the region’s military past.
e. Pillayarpatti Karpaga Vinayagar Temple – This 1600-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is known for its intricate carvings and sculptures.
f. Kundrakudi Murugan Temple – A temple dedicated to Lord Murugan, known for its unique architecture and beautiful sculptures.
g. Chettiar Mansion Museum – This museum showcases the traditional lifestyle of the Chettiars.

What are the other places of tourist interest in Chettinad?

Chettinad has several other tourist attractions besides historical and heritage sites. Some of the other tourist attractions include:

a. Ayyanar Sunai – A beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush greenery.
b. Kanadukathan – It is a picturesque village with several old mansions and temples. We really enjoyed our excursion here.
c. Thiruvadanai – A famous historic town known for its ancient temples and architecture.
d. Kundrakudi Bird Sanctuary – A sanctuary that houses several species of waterbirds. Unfortunately, it did not impress us. 

What is the best time for you to visit Chettinad?

The best time to visit Chettinad is between November and February, when the weather is pleasant and ideal for sightseeing. The summer months are unbearable, and the monsoon season is unsuitable for exploring the countryside.

What are the art forms you should experience in Chettinad?

Chettinad is known for its rich cultural heritage and traditional arts and crafts. When the mansion-building fever gripped the Chettiars during the 18th century, Chettiars brought artisans and skilled workers from other parts of India and abroad to make handmade things like designer tiles, wooden carvings, interior decorations, lamps, etc. Some of the descendants of such artisans are still practising their trade here. 

Please consult with your tour guide or operator and see if they can arrange a visit to a tile manufacturing or woodcarving unit in Chettinad. The artisans of Chettinad are also known for their basket weaving and silk weaving. 

In addition, the region is home to several schools of traditional dance and music, including the Bharatanatyam dance form and Carnatic music.

What are the best souvenirs to buy from Chettinad?

You can buy traditional pottery, baskets, hand-woven silk sarees, wooden carvings etc. We managed to get a handmade floor tile around 120 years old from a local souvenir shop after a lengthy bargain. 

What traditional food and drinks must you try while in Chettinad?

During our stay in Chettinad, we made sure to try every dish that had a “Chettinad” tag on it. Take advantage of every opportunity to try their cuisine, which is known for its use of spices and herbs. 

Some must-try dishes include Chettinad Chicken, a spicy and flavorful chicken curry, and Kuzhi Paniyaram, a traditional rice and lentil batter snack. In addition, the region is famous for its filter coffee, a popular beverage in South India.

How many days are required to explore Chettinad?

You should spend at least three days in the region. You will need time to explore the countryside and see the mansions and heritage places related to the Chettiars’ legacy. And, of course, you need time to relish the delicious Chettinad dishes.

Is visiting Chettinad worth it?

Chettinad is a unique destination that offers a glimpse into a hard-stopped opulent lifestyle and the distinctive architectural heritage of Tamil Nadu. If you love fairy-tale stories of abandoned mansions and remnants of an opulent lifestyle, Chettinad will not disappoint you

Which are the Historical Chettinad Maniosns available for you to say?

Many grand old Chettinad Mansions are now being run as holes and heritage accommodations. We have selected the following hotels for you to have a comfortable stay and have local experiences. 



Heritage Mansions in Chettinad

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