Located in the heart of the southern state of Tamil Nadu is the Chettinad region. It was once a thriving community of over 95 villages, but the wealthy Nattukottai Chettiar community living here has now been grossly reduced, as many have migrated to larger cities for better prospects.However, there is a quaint charm about this region which should make it on your ‘must visit’ list. Home to a number of outstanding temples, the main city here is Karaikudi which offers visitors beautiful insights into the past splendor of the rich merchants who owned the palatial mansions seen here.
Karaikudi is also famous for the rich shopping experience it offers its visitors; some of these are listed below:
Around Muneeswaran Kovil Street with its many lanes, you will find Karaikudi’s best-kept secret – it’s around 18 shops selling a mind-blowing array of antiques. These antique shops can throw up some real gems in the form of antique clocks, snuffboxes, furniture, brassware, wooden spice boxes, imported enamel kitchenware, antique locks, mirrors, over-sized radios, table fans, photo frames, etc. The list is literally endless and time spent puttering around these shops is never enough for the avid antique shopper! You will find things here that are from as far away as Sweden, Austria, Germany, Belgium, England and even Czechoslovakia. Sadly, most of the items come from the abandoned majestic mansions that are slowly going to ruins.
This was once a blooming colony of hand-operated loom weavers specialized in creating the famous Chettinad cotton saris. The few weavers left behind are taking great care to ensure the continuation of this craft. The saris here are uniquely designed in stripes and small and large checks with the borders being traditionally woven in contrasting colors. These saris are still in demand by a discerning few.
Another object of great beauty sold here are the Athangudi tiles. These are unique hand-crafted tiles with a surface so glossy that it’s said to last for decades. They come with colorful patterns that are made with a metal template or free-hand technique and you can even order your own design! They are used on the floors, walls or the ceiling and can be seen adorning the rambling mansions here.
When visiting this region, be prepared to spend a few days here as there is so much to see and experience! You could stay over at the magnificent Chidambara Vilas hotel which is a renovated century-old palace, and enjoy authentic Chettinad hospitality and cuisine.