Located in the Chettinad region of Southern Tamil Nadu, Karaikudi is the largest township in the Sivagangai District. Karaikudi is also the capital of Chettinad and is famous for its culture and impressive tourist attractions. With magnanimous mansions and palatable local cuisine along with colourful cultural heritage, a holiday spent in Karaikudi will definitely be a time well-spent. Apart from all of these aspects, what makes Karaikudi an important destination for people from all over the country is the Athangudi tiles.
Travelling about 24 kilometres on the occasionally potholed and otherwise smooth road away from the town centre of Karaikudi, you will reach Athangudi. It is one of the many small villages that form Karaikudi and is renowned for its handcrafted terracotta tiles across the country. Since ingenious crafts and art go into making the tiles, it cannot be bought from anywhere else other than Athangudi.
Over the years, Athangudi has become one of the most enterprising villages in Karaikudi where tile making has become the most distinctive local art. Tile making in Athangudi was a derivative of the affinity of the Chettiars who imported expensive and great-looking tiles from foreign countries, especially European countries. Later the Chettiars found that it was difficult and expensive to repair the tiles when damaged due to wear and tear and ageing. The severe lack of replacement tiles was another pressing issue that bogged the minds of the Chettiars who associated their social stature and reputation directly with the conditions of their mansions.
It was during such times the people of Athangudi set up the tile making cottage industry to meet the demands of the Chettiars. In order to make the tile match the cultural heritage and general affinity of the people living in this part of the country, they made the tiles with vibrant and strong colours with distinct patterns and designs.
Gradually, the tiles made in Athangudi became one of the most sought-after and preferred tiles in the whole country and people from across the breadth and length of the country started coming to Athangudi seeking these exceptional tiles. Athangudi tiles are a rare instance where the artistic styles of the East and West merge to produce something exceptionally well-deserving.
As the tiles are wholly handmade, its appeal further expands. For the Chettiars, the durability of the tiles was always an issue and hence, the major concern while making tiles was to address this particular matter. As the tiles have sustainable designs and eco-friendly making, it clearly scores well over others.
Even after decades of years, the traditional making of tiles has never been changed and it still used to make Athangudi tiles. It is quite easy to mistake Athangudi tiles for mosaic, but the most basic components of the tiles are cement. The tiles are made over glass surfaces to give it the best finish and look.
The Athangudi tile factory is the place where you can observe the famous tiles are being made. Witnessing the same, you will have all the answers you need to convince yourself why the tiles are the best. With over 200 years of experience, the factory still boasts as one of the best places where the local craft is its best form.