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Interiors of Chettinad Architecture

Chettinad interiors are a worldwide tourist attraction for their architecture and cuisine. This blog puts forward the elements of interiors and their unique style of architecture adopted from the states and from different parts of world.

A short brief….

Chettinad is a region of the Sivaganga district of southern, Tamil Nadu , India. The origin of Chettinad begins in 13th century when the NattukottiChettiars migrated to karaikudi. KARAIKUDI is known as the capital of Chettinad. Starting as traders, the Chettiar’s travelled worldwide like South East Asia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia, from where they exported style and materials. Chettinad architecture and interiors evolved due to mercantile profession of the resident. They returned with eclectic ideas and artefacts which were included in their cuisine, architecture, furniture and custom, they evolved a unique style combining Indian and Western styles. Aathangudi tile is also an unique tile which Chettiar manufactured in Chettinad. They use local available soil and glass plates for the manufacturing of the tile. These tiles are testament to the rich cultural heritage of the chatters community, of their own brand of local craftsmanship.

This community is famous for two things, their palatial homes and their cuisine. As far as their homes go, this community of former bankers, traders and merchants built homes to showcase their wealth. The richer the Nagarathar Chettiar, the more ornate and luxurious his home. These people made their money during their trading days with the south-east Asian countries, their business also introduced them to the good things in life which they brought back with them and included into the exotic houses built. It is no surprise at all to find teak wood from Burma, crystals from Europe, marble from Italy, painted tiles from Holland, wall-to-wall mirrors from Belgium along with splendid chandeliers inside palatial mansions.

These 19th century mansions, though very lavishly decorated with ornate finishing’s, had very practical architectural designs suitable to the climate as well as the large families they housed. Chettinad homes are a testimony to the successful joint families that existed in the yesteryears. The basic floor plan consisted of an outside veranda with a room for receiving visitors and conducting business at one or both ends of the house, these usually abutted onto the streets. The verandas opened into large spacious halls or inner courtyards through intricately carved wooden doors. The houses were designed longitudinally with one splendid courtyard opening into another, such that the backdoor could even be seen from the front courtyard. These central courtyards were great for hosting guests during weddings and other ceremonies and were surrounded by classy wooden pillars with granite bases.

The rear courtyards were the woman’s domains were they prepared meals, socialized and reared their young ones. A verandah encircled the courtyards and doors leading to spacious double rooms opened off them, leading to the private quarters of each family. Some doors opened to storage rooms and prayer rooms too. Though the ground floor architecture is typically Tamil, the upper floors have outside influences with cornices and double balustrades. Being located in a semi-arid area, the tiled roofs were designed with rain harvesting in mind and these led through a network of channels into the village pond. The designs were so well-planned that the interiors of these houses were always cool even during the hottest hours and natural light was available for maximal time possible.


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