Though I have stayed in Karaikudi for 18 years (my parents still live there), I was never vocal about anything related to Chettinad. As we are not basically from this region, I have very little knowledge about the Chettinad culture. To be honest, during my childhood, I never thought that this place will become world famous (especially for its cuisine) and I will be writing about this place in a forum like this.
The major town in the Chettinad region is Karaikudi and there are so many small villages in and around Karaikudi. Chettiars a community of people resides in this region (hence the name Chettinad) and they are well known for their simple lifestyle and philanthropy. If you are from Tamilnadu, you must have heard of Alagappa Chettiyar. He had donated a huge area of land for educational institutes in Karaikudi. Even I studied in a government-aided school for girls founded by Chidambaram Chettiar.
Their weddings are very unique in style. They do the ceremonies in their big ancestral homes instead of function halls. The ‘thaali’ (sacred thread) and the ‘seer’ (giveaways for the bride) are very different. This video below exactly shows a typical Chettiar style wedding. Do watch it.
I think the best way to know the Chettinad culture and to relish authentic Chettinad food is by attending a Chettiar wedding.
Coming to the Chettinad houses, they are nothing but architectural marvels. A typical house consists of a big verandah; one outside and then one inside. Followed by a ‘mutram’ (an empty space in the centre of the house open to the sky) surrounded by rooms. Then the dining area (some houses have separate halls for dining), the kitchen and the backyard.
The Chettinad houses became famous mainly because of the movie shootings. This is the famous Kanadukathan house also know as Kanadukathan palace.
You must have seen this house in movies like ‘Guru’, ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain’ etc.
Visitors are not allowed in this house but if you know someone belonging to this family, you can take some special permission and enter.
A few streets away from the Kanadukathan palace is the CVRM house. The entry for this house is INR 50/- person. The staffs are friendly here and they can explain about the different parts of the house.
The CVRM house Kanadukathan welcomes you with a beautiful swing.
You can explore the first floor and the terrace of this house as well which gives you a beautiful view of all the other Chettinad houses around.
You also get to see some utensils used during those days.
Ask the staffs there to show you all the rooms so that you won’t be missing any of this.
Another Chettinad house you can visit is the ‘Athangudi Palace’ which is around 10-15 mins from Kanadukathan.
The entry fee for this house is also Inr 50/- but the staff here is not that friendly. He just rushes you to see the house and leave.
How to Plan?
- You can reach Karaikudi by bus or train from Chennai, by bus from Bangalore and by road also from both the places (around 6-7 hours )
- You can stay in Karaikudi (so many nice boarding facilities are there) and hire a taxi to visit the Chettinad houses.
- The above said 2 houses are the ones open for public. It won’t take you more than half a day to see both the houses. Maybe you can visit the houses in the morning and explore the bazaar of Karaikudi to buy some Chettinad exclusive stuff in the evening or vice versa. Don’t plan on a Sunday.
- If you are planning for a South Tamilnadu tour, you can keep one day or half a day for Karaikudi. From the north, it’s just 90kms from Trichy and from the south, just 80kms from Madurai (approx. 90 mins).
- Pillayarpatti and Kundrakudi are 2 famous temples which are around 20 mins from Karaikudi. You can include that as well in your itinerary. Rameshwaram is another famous pilgrimage you can consider.
- There are so a few house stays where you can actually stay in a Chettinadu house but as far as I know, they are targeted towards foreigners that the rates are so high. A quick google search for such places can give you an idea.
Hope this post gave you an overall idea about Chettinadu. Please feel free to ping me if you need any guidance while visiting 🙂