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Karaikudi Tourism Tours and Travel Tamilnadu /Chittipuri Tourism

The Bangalal
The Bangalal
Star
Address: Devakottai Road, Senjai
Location: Karaikudi, Tamil Nadua
Property Type: Business And Leisure Hotel


Visalam Hotel
Visalam Hotel
Star
Address: 7/1-143, Local Fund Road
Location: Kannadukathan, Karikudi
Property Type: Business And Leisure Hotel

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About Karaikudi

To begin with, it was their food that made them famous chiken Pepper fry, did more to Chettinadu cuisine and the lifestyle of the Nattukkotai Chettiars living a in a remote area of the already distant State of Tamil Nadu, than any other single feature.

Then it was Chettinad saris, the richly coloured textiles in cotton and silk, that hinted at a distinctive community. These were followed by the arts and crafts of Chettinad that began to flood the antique shop. There were beautifully proportioned pillars in rare tropical woods, ornately craved doorways and doors, narrow panels of wood that came from the lintels and coffered ceiling of former homes, the four branched capitals carved in wood, taken from pillars, that were upturned and used as the base for glass-topped tables, hanging glass chandeliers, glazed tiles pressed tiles, marble-topped tables decorated with tiles along their edges and heavy Victorian and Edwardian style wooden furniture. This does not even begin to mention the fabulous amounts of Burmese lacquer ware, the original Swedish enamelware, the Belgian glass, English crockery and cutlery, or the containers made locally of brass, bamboo, stone and wood. The antique shops of some of the better-known tourist destinations of the south were crammed with the loot from the homes of the Chettiars, long before it became fashionable to talk of the Chettinad Style.

What they did was to create a demand for this mythical style. With the opening of Dakshinachitra, a museum of arts, crafts and architecture of the southern region, just outside of Chennai, that showcased an entire house reconstructed from Chettinad, the interest was enhanced. Visalakshi Ramaswamy, one of the three persons responsible for putting together ,The Chettiar Heritage, has not only been closely associated with Dakshinachitra, she herself started collecting the very many artefacts from Chettinad and displaying them in her Chennai homes in a setting that was both traditional and contemporary. In the process she has become involved in reviving some of the local craft and textile traditions.

Culture History of Karaikudi

S. Muthiah is well-known social historian of the south. His sister, Meenakshi Meyappan, social worker with an interest in contemporary Indian art, added her own intimate knowledge of the religious and domestic rituals associated with the community. Between the three of them they have managed to produce an intimate social and culture history of the Nattukkotai Chettiars. Though they call it a ,coffee table, book, perhaps on account of the size and magnitude of the pictorial documentation, it is as comprehensive a record of the previously, publicity-shy community, as one can hope to get.

As Muthiah has explained, the editors took a conscious decision not to focus on the personalities of the Chettiar community, many of whom have taken their place amongst the industrial elite of the south after Independence, but on their common heritage. To this end they have concentrated on making their text as richly visual as they possibly could and have documented the material wealth that the community accumulated in their palatial homes, during the 100 years of their heyday, from the latter half of the 19th to the first half of the 20th century.

This is perhaps what makes the book of special interest to students of art and architecture. The largest segment of the book focuses on the homes and mansions of the Nattukkotai Chettiars who are scattered in 76 villages in are area that is popularly referred to as ,Chettinad,. This is peculiarly fitting; give the history of the community, members of which are also referred to as ,Nagarathars, or those who live in ,Nagarams, or towns. At some distant epoch of their history, they were forced to fleet from the area around Nagapattinam that was under a Chola king and seek the protection of the neighbouring Pandyan kingdom. The story of how they settled around nine ,Clan Temples, that are still very much a focus of the community and became traders is a part of their identity.

Karaikudi Tourist Places

They are seen as town folk ,Nattukkotai, the term that distinguished them from other Chettiars, or members of a merchant community in the south, means, ,Those who live in country forts,. The community organised itself in small clusters. Their high walled an inward looking mansions, recall the dwelling of the merchant communities in places like Bikaner. Just as the money lenders in Rajasthan were force to travel out of their arid land to seek their fortunes else where, the Nattukkotai Chettiars were also forced to leave the bleak countryside around Karaikudi, today one of the main towns in the area, and settle down as money lenders in distant places of the south. During these long periods of absence, it was the women who conducted the affairs of the family, living together under one roof, and yet managing their family units separately. This social pattern is also reflected in the architecture of their mansions. Small strong rooms, with massive wooden doors are given to the different family members. Some of these rooms are extensively decorated with small glass baubles, like those used for Christmas trees, and with rows and rows of porcelain figurines. Indeed the Chettiar ladies were probably collectors before their time. They seem to have had an innate facility for arranging all their belonging whether in their puja rooms or in their storerooms, according to size and shape, and in descending order and importance, as if for display in a museum.

It was probably their ability to travel that led the Chettiars to make the best use of the territories that opened up to them in the 19th century, as the British consolidated their grip in Southeast Asia. The Chettiars spread out in countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaya, Cambodia and Vietnam and even went west, towards some of the French colonies, according to Muthiah. As Muthiah points out, the financial acumen and scrupulous, lending patterns of the Nattukkotai Chettiars contributed to the development of the agriculture and trade of these regions. On the other hand, a novelist like Amitav Ghosh paints a grimmer picture, in ,The Glass Palace, about the role played by the Chettiars in Burma. They were seen as the agents of their imperial masters. While helping to exploit the material wealth of the subjugated territories, they also accumulated vast amounts of wealth themselves.

This only adds to the fascination of the ,country forts, of the Chettiars. These loom upon the landscape of the former Ramnad district, to the south west of Tanjore, like something out of a fairy tale. They are massive high walled structures, often built in compact clusters, back to back, one house stretching all the way along the length of a street. Theoretically, you can stand at the front entrance of one of these mansions and look straight down the main axis, all the way to the back door that leads from the kitchen to the next street. It,s only when you climb up to one of the terraces that you can see the neat progression of court-yards surrounded by covered verandas, cash with their tiled and sloping roofs, intersected by the long communal halls that unfold ceremoniously, all the way and also provide Populare City of Karaikudi Tour & Travel

Tourist Attraction of Karaikudi

The doorways, or entrances to each of these areas are an important part of the Chettiar style. The front ones are the most imposing. The finest Burma teak, the richest satinwoods from Sri Lanka, black marble, and ebony have been used.

The carving is unparalleled. As Muthiah points out, these were execute by the local craftsmen who would normally have worked on decorating the temples in the area. The motifs of swans, lotuses, sun-signs, elephants, griffon and so forth, are taken from the usual repertoire of symbols. The lintels are carved with scenes from the epics, just as you might find in a temple. It,s only in the later mansions that you find angles and cherubs staring down at you from the wooden struts of a roof. As the book shows, the earliest type of building was fairly simple; it consisted of an open public area at the covered entrance of the house, followed by a more secluded formal area just at the back of the imposing front entrance that looked across to the courtyard.

As the Chettiars grew in wealth and stature, these areas, the front entrance and the formal public area, grew in size and opulence. English style furniture was introduced in the formal public area. When this was expanded into a main hall the ornamentation exceeded all imagination. As some of the photographs show, these halls would have elaborately carved and painted ceilings, with an opulent chandelier hanging from the centre, the lower walls would be tiled with Japanese ceramics, and the upper edges decorated with a frieze of paintings that reflected images of the Sahibs and Ladies hunting, or of the newly introduced motor car and train, or voluptuous damsels lolling around on bolsters, in imitation of the sirens on cinema that was also to have a deep impact on the visual language of the time. Many of the houses, both in their architectural trimming outside, and in the use of cast iron railings and balustrades and imported furniture inside, show a great fondness for the Art Deco style.

Some of the traditional elements may still be seen, though in a different context. In the early years, the walls were plastered with a creamy white plaster that had its own porcelain like finish, and was known as Chettinad plaster. These white walls obviously offset the wooden carving on the pillars and the doors. But it is said that the technique of plastering and polishing these surfaces has now been lost. The floors in some of the enormous halls were also covered in surfaces that had a dark mirror like finish. A thriving local industry has come up now that produces colourful tiles made of a local clay, at the village of Athangudi, from which they get their name, Athangudi tiles. These tiles in deep red, yellow, green and blue, also at time in black and white, are to be seen in many modern Chettiar homes.

If the interiors combined elements of the native style with European touches, the outside became veritable monuments of baroque architecture. The closest examples that one can compare them with is the fusion of Church-inspired architecture with the local stucco traditions that continued in parts of South America, long after the colonisers fled the area.