Chettiar Clan Temples

On December 3, 2019

Located within the heart of the southern state of Tamil Nadu is the famous Chettinad region which falls within the Sivagangai and Pudukottai districts. True to the tradition of Tamil Nadu being known as the land of temples;, the Nagarathar (also known as Chettiars) community who lived here were ardent Vishnu worshipers. They built many temples including 9 major clan temples. Each of the more than 93 settlements and more that existed here earlier, each was associated with a clan temple.Every temple had its own set of rules and with religious activities being a mainstay of the people, the temple administration also played a big role in town planning and the community flourished into strong townships with their own unique cultures. One interesting fact is that people belonging to the same temple are looked upon as siblings; hence marriage can only be among people belonging to different temple clans.

The nine clan temples granted by the Pandya kings had these villages and townships clustered around them, making up the great Chettinad region. The temples are known as Surakudi, Velankudi, Illupaikudi, Iraniyur, Nemamkoil, Vairavankoil, Illaiyathangudi, Mathoor and Pillaiyarpatti. Though the names are a mouthful, these grand temples are monuments of great beauty with intricately carved sculptures and wall frescoes. The colors used especially on the ceilings of these temples are still so vibrant. Another major feature of the clan temples is that they all have a temple tank (Oorani) in the premises resplendent with water lilies that are used in temple rituals.

The Chettinad region covers around 1000 sq miles and includes only 74 villages now.

It is a beautiful rugged land famous for many things. The lip-smacking cuisine here is unforgettable along with their indigenous, hand-crafted Chettinad Saris popular for their dramatic colors and fiery patterns of checks and stripes.

Athangudi tiles are another amazing artifact which is unique to this region and a trip to Chettinad would be incomplete without visiting their place of origin. Aside from the impressive clan temples, you will also be mesmerized by the numerous Chettiar mansions that were built on such grand proportions and meant to house at least three generations of joint families.

Getting to Chettinad is easy as the main city of Karaikudi is well-connected by good highways and railways. The nearest airport is just around 60km away in neighboring Trichy. And you could stay over at the magnificent heritage hotel, Chidambara Vilas which is a renovated century-old Chettinad palace. This will provide you with an authentic experience of true Chettinad culture and hospitality.