One of India’s most interesting states, Tamil Nadu offers a wide array of tourist attractions to its many tourists visiting it year after year. A land famous for its Dravidian architecture, fascinating temples, historic monuments, golden beaches, misty hills, and wildlife sanctuaries, it is home to some captivating destinations that truly take your breath way.
One such destination that is sure to win you over, working its way through your hearts & stomachs is the beautiful land of Chettinad that is famous for its delectable cuisines, temples, mansions and more. An ancient kingdom, it comprises of 74 villages with Karaikudi as its capital and is home to the wealthy Nattukottai Chettiars.
Standing out here are its 18th century palatial mansions each a work of art, decorated with Burma teak and marble, known to house several windows and doors with frames of Gajalakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), colourful handmade Athungudi floor tiles, antique furniture and wooden vessels from other Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma and Malaysia. Some of these magnificent mansions are even adorned with wooden panels depicting scenes of great Indian epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The Chettiar Manion is the most renowned of all the palatial mansions that Chettinad is home to. A stunning mansion known for its brilliant South Indian architecture, open courtyard that lies at the heart of the house and intricate carvings, this heritage home today being converted into a heritage hotel is one of the most sought after attractions as it is a living example of Chettinad’s architectural brilliance.
Also referred to as Raja’s Palace, the Chettinad Palace is another brilliant example of Chettinad architecture and was constructed by S. A. Rm. Ramaswamy. An architectural marvel it known for its exquisite furnishings from Europe and East Asian countries, teak, marble and granite pillars, beautiful flooring, large mirrors used on walls, rosewood tables and more.
Dating back to the 10th century, the Athmanathaswamy Temple is a well known temple here dedicated to Lord Shiva, and at the same time related to Saint Manickavasagar, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. A striking temple it is known for its granite roof, life-size sculptures, beautiful interiors, and exquisite murals on its Periya Mandapam that were added during the 17th-19th century (the rule of the Nayaks). While some of the paintings portray Shiva, many also depict real life events of Saint Manickavasagar’s life.
Chettinad comprises of nine clan temples in nine clusters of the villages formed by the Chettiar community. These clan temples are located at Soorakudi, Vairavanpatti, Velankudi, IIayathangudi, Iraniloil, Nemam, IIuppakudi, mathur and Pillaiyarpatti, and have an interesting legend behind them.
Some standing out for their architectural brilliance and their elaborate works are the Sekkalai Temple also known as the Jain Kunda Puram, the Koppudai Ammam Temple, Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple also known as Shivan Temple, and the famed Kunnakudi Temple.
Carved out of a single rock, the Karpagavinayagar temple is one of Tamil Nadu’s oldest temples (4th century AD) and a well known tourist attraction. The temple enshrines a 6 foot deity of Lord Ganesha also referred to by locals as Karpaga Vinayagar or Desi Vinayaka Pillaiyar. What makes this temple stand out from other temples is the statue of Karpaga Vinayagar having just arms, signifying he was man first. There being only two such statues in the world, it is a place of tremendous religious significance. Also seen here are numerous rock cut images of Lord Shiva, Lord Marudankudi, Eesar along with his consort Vaadaamalar Mangai.
Kaviarsar Kannadhsan Mani Mandapan is an outstanding monument known for its marvelous architecture that was created as a tribute to the famous poet-laureate Kaviarsar Kannadhsan who gave Tamil literature a new meaning. Positioned near the New Bus Stand of Chettinnad, it s known for its beautiful entrances, a statue of the poet, and well stocked library which has a good compilation of works of Kaviarsar Kannadhsan and other poets.
Kamban Mani Mandapam is dedicated to celebrated poet Kavi Chakravathy Kamban who rewrote the epic Ramayana in Tamil, the mandapam constructed by the Nagarathars community is said to be the place he spent a major portion of his life.
A beautiful locale, if its wonderful attractions fail to captivate any tourist visiting it, its scrumptious cuisines surely will win over the hearts of its visitors. A district for both vegetarian and non vegetarian delights, some must try delicacies while touring the land include its famous Brinjal curry, pongal, payasam, paal paniyaram, Aadi kummayam, side dishes – Kara Kozhambu and Pakkoda Kuzhambu and rice pudding called Kavanarisi.
Last but not the least, no mention of Chettinad is complete without a mention of the famous cotton sarees which are known for their vibrant colours, bold stripes, checks and contrasting hues and have been in great demand by many from ancient times.
A wonderful place to visit as a historian, art lover, antiquarian or tourists, this place will surely delight anyone visiting it with its stunning works of art!