Palaces of Chettinad

By Sanjeev Nayyar esamskriti@suryaconsulting.net | 2016

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Part 1 of Chettinad albums was at Karaikudi. This album has Chettinad Palace & mansions of Kanadukathan village ie about 30 minutes drive from Karaikudi. U see the Chettinad Palace. It was home of late M A M Ramaswamy. We were told palace now has 2 parts divided between 2 brothers, a smaller third mansion opposite palace is owned by cousin A C Muthiah. To see pics of Mansions of Karaikudi Click here

Palace has 2 entrances one of which is this. Very well maintained. Must be awesome inside. It is on the banks of the Adyar river. Wish could take a helicopter view.

Close up of same section. Wonder why I love taking pics from angles. Perhaps because in this case we went about 10 am rising sun hit the camera, early morning took pics of another mansion hotel.

Close up of Goddess image not sure which one. The building of the second part of the palace (told belongs to another brother) was quite inside and caretaker staff would not allow us entry. May be I should have been a bit more aggressive in hindsight.

Close up of side view. Looks so nice as if it were made a few years ago. Notice the window design and stain glass work.

We got into the house, a side view. A bit about the Chettiars. They came here from Kanchipuram only about 200 years ago. Till private banks were nationalised they travelled to S.E. Asia with Chettinad as their base. Thereafter, they moved to cities.

Took this pic the night before, the stain glass looks awesome. Much of the profits made by the Chettiars went into building these grand residences, which used to be called Natukottai or regional fort.

Walk way to main home. "The Nattukottai Chettiar traders followed the expansion of the British Empire into S.E.Asia for their business. They brought back Burmese teak and European tiles for their mansions, as well as the inspiration from colonial and palace architecture. They also incorporated the wealth of wood sculpting and craftsmanship from local craftsmen in their homes."

Corridor. Well maintained. To read briefly about Chettinad Architecture Click here

Area on entering from the main door enroute to the courtyard. To see a video of the Chettinad Palace Click here

Opposite the Chettinad Palace is a relatively modest home of their cousin A C Muthiah, said locals.

Local temple minutes away from Chettinad Palace. What I like about South India temples is a small kund - water body is always found either as part of the temple or just behind it. Using todays language we could call it a way of water harvesting.

It was Pongal time. During the month of Margazhi (dec15-jan15) it is customary for women in Tamil Nadu to get up early in the morning and draw the KOLAM in front of the house and decorate it with cow dung and pimkin flowers.

In the same village we saw a few other mansions, most of them locked. Centre image is that of Shri Ram with Sita and Lakshman. At his feet offering pranams is Hanuman.

Another mansion. The main door opened with a gentle push so got a view of the entrance area.

Wooden pillars with entrance door. Locals said few mansions are occupied today. Most people moved to Chennai, Bangalore etc and come here for religious functions or weddings.

This is the last mansion we saw. Here again it is divided into two parts, the undivided mansion must be huge. Here you are allowed entry on payment of Rs 100/ to the caretaker. A few aged people live here but they were too old to interact with you.

This is the sitting area. Note ceiling woodwork.

Corridor next to sitting area. Right of pic are windows of rooms that open into the sitting area. Note ceiling wood work.

Chettinad mansions are famous for entrance doors with very intricate wood work.

Wooden paneling on side of entrance door.

We entered into courtyard one.

View of courtyard. Has rooms on both sides. Clearly having sunlight directly into the home played a important part of the design.

Door in courtyard corridor with pics of family members.

View of courtyard corridor, note ceiling wood work.

Close up of ceiling wood work design.

Speciality of Chettinad homes is that u can see straight through the various doors ie from one courtyard entry to the next.

Caretaker in one of the rooms where old utensils and kitchen ware are stored.

Next courtyard. After here u enter the road. Lady in centre quite old herself cooks for the aged two of whom you see in the pic. In one of the rooms was man groaning, asking for coffee. My heart went out to them - how they were surviving old age. I prayed for the good health of the lady who was cooking / looking after them.

Intricate wood work above door entrance is peculiar to Chettinad. Last album that we present on Chettinad Mansions is of Hotel Visalam ie in the same village.

As walked out saw this shop doing intricate wood work. The design is first drawn on tracing paper and then work started. Great trip to Chettinad. Wow mansions. Sad to see some aged people struggle the way I saw. What a change from their younger days. Hats off to the enterprise of the Chettinads. Must visit place.