Chidambara Vilas is an exquisite specimen of Chettinad Houses. Although governed by similar aesthetic and planning concepts, the grandeur of the Chettinad house was determined by the power and social standing of the merchant who owned it. As with all things Chettinad, the luxury was in the details, and powered by the financial influence of the merchant. The house was built over 100 years ago at the peak of Chettinad dominance and the opulence of the era can be felt in every aspect of its interiors. Imported materials are used liberally in Chidambara Vilas, as the Chettiars were well known for. Built at the time of the British Raj, Chidambara Vilas fits the format of the perfect Chettinad house – an amalgam of traditional and western design sensibilities. For its sheer details, Chidambara Vilas boasts interiors that stand out from among the other houses in the region. From furniture, to ornate carvings, paintings and unique elements like the carved 3D dolls in the Bomma Kottagai, Chidambara Vilas represents Chettinad at its finest opulence.
Grand Reception – “Mugappu”
The Mugappu is the reception area at the threshold of the entry to Chidambara Vilas. A key element of the reception is the Kallupetti which is the accountant’s desk. The origin of this desk hails back to the days when the Chettiars were running finance and banking operations in the last century. A striking element is the numerous pillars which are done up in materials like wood, granite, terracotta and decorated by ornate woodwork.
The Courtyard – “Valavu”
The courtyard following the Reception and lobby is called the Valavu. The courtyard is framed with rooms on two sides. The doors to these rooms are intricately carved with auspicious images of Gods and Goddesses. Each married male member of the family is given one of the rooms surrounding the Valavu or upstairs.
Bomma Kottagai literally translates into Doll house, and this is reflected in the intricate carvings and installations of dolls in this hall. The use of the hall hails back to the Chettiar tradition of inviting neighbours and relatives to pooja and lunch during the time of the festival of Golu. During this festival several intricate dolls were displayed to the visitors in the hall and this tradition has translated into the use of dolls in decorating the hall.
The Visiri hall was reserved for the women in the family. The hall has now been converted into the experiential dining hall which serves authentic chettinad leaf meals. The hall is decorated with paintings depicting mythical scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The paintings were done using organic colors created through combining various natural dyes and elements. These dyes and organic elements were ground together to create the various shades and colors. This hall is also known as Panka Hall. Before the use of electricity the Fan (Panka) was operated manually. Exquisite chandeliers which used candles are also seen in the hall.