Chettinad is a region of the Sivaganga district of southern Tamil Nadu. Karaikudi is known as the capital of Chettinad, which includes Karaikudi and 74 (traditionally 96) other villages. Chettinad is the homeland of the Nattukottai Chettiars (Nagarathar), a prosperous banking and business community. Many of this community's members migrated to South and Southeast Asia, particularly Ceylon and Burma, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The people of Chettinad speak Tamil. Today there is a diaspora of Chettinad people who live in places such as the USA, Singapore and Malaysia.
Chettinad is well known for its Chettinad cuisine, mansions, and temples. "Chettinad" also means a social caste that specializes in the preparation of food. Chettinads are considered master chefs who prepare food that reflects the excellence that people in Chennai/South India look for in the preparation and serving of food. Some cuisines have been renamed, such as Chicken Chettinad (Spicy Chicken Curry) or Veg Chettinad (a curry of selective vegetables) to reflect the specialty and care given during preparation of food.
Chettinad is known for its culinary delicacies. Chettinad food now is one of the many reasons why people visit Chettinad. Chettinad food is essentially spicy, with a standard full meal consisting of cooked lentils, Brinjal curry, drumstick sambar, ghee for flavouring rice, and sweet meats like payasam and paal paniyaram. Kara kolambu is a highly regarded south Indian sambar. Aadi kummayam is a mouth watering delicacy for the sweet-toothed ones, made from pulses.
Chettinad is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture. It is well known for its houses, embellished with marble and Burma teak, wide courtyards, spacious rooms, and for its 18th century mansions. Local legend has it that their walls used to be polished with a paste made out of eggwhites to give a smooth texture.
Originally built by early Tamil dynasties like the Cholas, the temples of Chettinad stand testimony to the spiritual beliefs of its denizens. Scattered over the whole place, each temple has its own tank called oorani where water lilies are grown and used for holy rituals. Even today much of Chettinad's daily tidings are centered around the festivities of the temple. Among the many famous temples are Vairavan Kovil temple, Karpaga Vinayakar temple, Kundrakudi Murugan temple, Kottaiyur Sivan temple and Kandanur Sivan temple.
Chettinad is rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, and is well known for its houses, embellished with marble and Burma teak, wide courtyards, spacious rooms, and for its 18th century mansions. Local legend tells that their walls used to be polished with a paste made out of eggwhites to give a smooth texture.
The construction material, decorative items and furnishings were mostly imported from East Asian countries and Europe. The marble was brought from Italy, chandeliers and teak from Burma, crockery from Indonesia, crystals from Europe and wall-to-wall mirrors from Belgium. The woodwork and stonework was inspired that of the houses in France and other European destinations.
Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India. The Chettiar community, who are a majority in this region, are a very successful trading community. Chettinad cuisine is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India.
Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas, and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and lamb. Chettiars do not eat beef and pork.
Most of the dishes are eaten with rice and rice based accompaniments such as dosais, appams, idiyappams, adais and idlis. The Chettinad people through their mercantile contacts with Burma, learnt to prepare a type of rice pudding made with sticky red rice.
Chettinad cuisine offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Some of the popular vegetarian dishes include idiyappam, paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, karuppatti paniyaram, paal paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, masala paniyaram, adikoozh, kandharappam, seeyam, masala seeyam, kavuni arisi & athirasam.
In Chettinad food, the most important spices are maratti mokku (dried flower pods), anasipoo (star aniseed) and kalpasi (a lichen known as the "black stone flower", also known as dagad phool). In addition, tamarind, whole red chillies, and sombu (fennel seed) are also used along with pattai (cinnamon), lavangam (cloves), bay leaf, karu miLagu (peppercorn), jeeragam (cumin seeds), and venthayam (also called mendhiyam) (fenugreek).
There are thousands of villages in Indian soil. There are numerous ones worth remembering because of their geographical position and a good number because of their significant role and participation in Nation Building.
If cities are shining with talent abound, it is quite natural because of the facilities available in them. But if a village has to excel and stand in the forefront with buzzing economic activity, it is like a light shining in pitch darkness. One such village is Athangudi,one of chettinad village in Shivagagai District of Tamilnadu, India.
Athangudi tiles, named after the place of manufacture in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, come in myriad colors and patterns and are made by a unique process using local soil. These tiles are a testimony to the rich cultural heritage of the Chettiar community, who effectively adapted many influences to their own brand of local craftsmanship. The designs and colors used in Athangudi Tiles are still those of a bygone era. However, off late new designs and patters are being incorporated. The artisans say the charisma of these tiles is due to the sand, which is of just the right composition.
The Athangudi tiles are hand-made. Even before invasion of mechanized making of floor tiles such as ceramic, vitrified, marble and granites,these flowering tiles of Athangudi were a match of its own class and they competed with imported ones of Japan and Italy.
However, having little shelf life and relatively slow manufacturing process, these tiles are not much in demand. The situation has led to the decline in the market. Athangudi tiles need revival. It needs support and encouragement.
How to Reach Chettinad
The nearest airport is Madurai airport, 85 kilometers away. The largest town in the area is Karaikudi. Trains that run from Chennai to Rameshwaram stop at Karaikudi, Kanadukaathan (Chettinad Station) and Kallal.