The origin of the Nagaraththar or the successful Trading Community of Chettiars, also called as the Nattukottai Chettiars begins in the 13th century when the Nattu Kottai Chettiars migrated from the Kaveripoompattinam presumably after a massive and devastating flood . The new settlement became the Land of Chettiars with 96 villages spreading over 1000 Sq.miles. Currently it has shrunk to 56 villages in Sivagangi and 20 villages in Pudukottai Districts totaling 76 villages. By virtue of their business activities, in the 19th Century, they travelled extensively and settled in the nearby countries of Sri Lanka[Ceylon], Java, Sumatra Islands, Singapore, Myanmar[Burma], Cambodia , Vietnam[Saigon] and Malaysia. They grew wealthy and became a powerful community in India. Abundance of money made the Nagarathar to concentrate in the activities of Religion, Education and Finance. Nagarathar’s were the one who had dedicated the Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank, Bank of Madura and also the United India Insurance as private banking and Insurance establishments to the country. Large number of this community’s population is settled in West Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States too. Chettinad is known for its unique art and architecture, Nagarathar temples and Aromatic and tasty local cuisine.
Chettinad is famous for its tourist attractions -the traditional palaces and mansions that will help one to understand the simple, yet classy life of the wealthy Chettiar community. Some of the interesting tourist attractions in Chettinad are the museums-the Kamban Mani Mandapam and the Kaviarsar Kannadhasan Mani Mandapam, both built in honor of late poet-laureates. The latter has a museum with an amazing collection of artefacts -traditional jewellery, clothing, huge copper vats and grain bins. Visit to Devakottai , where the streets of Devakottai afford one the pleasure of walking through a typical Chettiar lane lined with old mansions, the most famous being Periya Minor's Veedu. The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Devakottai is famous for the 108 statues of Vinayakar.
CHETTINAD cuisine is very aromatic, Spicy and Rich in strength. Non Vegetarian food tops their Menu that includes Chicken, Fish, Prawn, Lobster, Crab, and Lamb, but they are cautious enough to avoid Beef and Pork. Varieties of naturally dried Meat and Salted Vegetables that suits their dry climate, normally finds its place in their daily Menu. Their food will find variety of Spices in the form of fresh ground Masalas necessarily wth a boiled egg. They have many Vegetarian Delicacies too in their cuisine. Chettinad Chicken and Lamb is the most favoured dishes from the Chettinad Kitchen. All spicy accompaniment dishes are taken almost along with rice based dishes. Idiyappam, Paniyaram, Vellai Paniyaram, Karupatti Paniyaram, Paal Paniyaram, Kuzhi Paniyaram and Masala Paniyaram, Kozhukattai, Khandarappam, Sweet and Masala Seeyam [sooyan], Kavuni Arisi and Athirasam are some of the long list of Vegetarian delicacies of the Chettinad Region. Arts and Crafts : The arts of Chettinad occupy a distinct position in South Indian folklore. Wood carving, silver embellishment, woven saris, palm-leaf baskets, gold jewelry, hand made tiles, architectural styles, egg plastering are among their more visible contributions to the wide-ranging repertoire of Indian arts and crafts. Kandaangi sarees or Chettinad Sarees, with use of beautiful colour combinations and pattern with bold checks and stripes, are the brand equity of the Chettinad region. Unique Chettinad baskets with unique and intricate patterns made with palm leaves and the patterns are as fine as the embroidery. Chettinad Weddings, normally conducted in their houses, equally emphasize the life style of the community. The week – long wedding celebration of the yester years, have been trimmed to a couple of days to suit the convenience. The hospitality, the jewels for bride and bridegroom, the food varieties are the special attraction of the occasion. The Nagarathars have the custom of tying the kazhuthu [neck] Uru [piece] [kazhuththu uru] commonly called as Mangal Sutra or the Thali, which is made of gold and covered with diamond. The pendant in the Thali /Mangalsutra represents the Clan/Family sub sects.
Even today, much of Chettinad's life style is centered around the activities and festivities of the temples. These temples were built with the help of the Kings who ruled region from time to time. Nagara Koil became the family temple or the temple belonging to a particular clan or sub divisions of the Chettiars of the region. Garlands from their family temple to the bride and bride groom is a ritual in vogue to confirm the wedding process. These temples were built according to Vasstu Sasthras and Agama Sasthras and exists as a testimony to the spiritual belief of the people. Wealthy Chettiars and the royal families maintained these temple sites. The holy tanks found in these temples are called as the OORANI. Majestic towers and exotic architecture are the special features of these temples called as the Nagara Koil. Karpaga Vinayakar, Kundrakudi Murugan, Kottaiyur Sivan, and Kandanur Sivan, Vairavan Kovil, Iraniyur temples, with each having its own unique deity are some among the famous temples of this region.Vinayagar Chathurthi and the Pillaiyar Nonbu in the month of December are the important festivals celebrated every year with pomp and show. The Nonbu concludes with a sweet called Illai or Ellai.
Shopping in Chettinad is a delight for any tourist who is interested in articles from antiquity to regional textile brand. Rich architectural influence of many Eastern and European countries brought in by the wealthy merchant community of this region, has left behind many interesting arte facts to be traded too. Muneeswaran street is the place to look out for the antique shopping. Apart from this, MM street lined with shops selling textile or the weavers Lane , where the traditional KANDANGI cotton sarees can be bought straight off the loom. Attractive and exotic, Used Wooden articles , Chinaware are special attraction to both the Indian and International tourists visiting this place. Weekly markets are spread to display very interesting items for sale.
By Road: Karaikudi is well connected by the national highways 45 and 210 with Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore and Chennai. By Rail: Karaikudi is the main railway station, which connects the State Capital Chennai and other major cities in TamilNadu and onwards to other parts of India. By Air: The nearest Airport Madurai & Trichy, almost 90 kms from Chettinad connects to different parts of the State.Tourist Information Tourist Office, Govt.of.Tamil Nadu, Bus stand Complex, Rameswaram - 623 526 Mobile : 94477-84477 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chettinad region is most popular and adored for its 18th century mansions, unique and ornamented palatial houses , with wide courtyards and spacious rooms embellished with marble and teak. Beautiful front court yard with wide and lengthy corridors on all four sides lined with ornamental pillars and antiques are a part of the Chettinad Houses. These palatial houses are found in the villages of Kaanadukathan, Aathangudi, Kandanur, Kad-iyapatti. Many of these mansions were built using a type of limestone known as karai hence they are also called as Karai[limestone] veedu. Local legend narrates that the mansion walls were polished with a paste made out of egg whites to give them a smooth and shiny texture.
Kaanadukathan, is one of the best destinations to see the Chettinad Architecture. The streets of this town with houses built on a palatial scale are almost deserted. Each one of these houses are located on a large plot of land that spreads over 1.5 to 10 acres and has many as 1,000-1,500 windows consuming around 1500 tons of timber as wood work. Annamalai Chettiar’s Chettinad Palace built in 1912 [almost 113 years ago], is the best of its kind located in chettinad. The construction material, decorative items, and furnishings from East Asia and Europe ; Marble from Italy; Chandeliers and Teak from Myanmar; Crockery from Indonesia; Crystal and Wall-to-wall Mirrors from Europe find their presence in these palaces.Since the maintenance of such Palaces costs lakhs of rupees a year, it is very sad to note that, of late , these antiquity master pieces are disappearing and are being demolished, built as smaller, compact and easily maintainable bungalows or houses.
A location called so because of the presence of Karai [Lime stone] Veedu [houses] or Houses built with Lime stone. It is also called so because of the widely found plant called KARAI in this area. This is on the Tiruchi-Rameswaran Highway, in the Sivagangai District, located around 100 m above the Sea Level. Population of Karaikudi is 1,06,793 and the literacy is 90% on an average. Karaikudi administration was set up in 1928, upgraded in 1988. Kundrakudi Shanmuganathan Temple, Ariyakudi Thiruvengamudayan Temple and the Thirumayam Permual Temple are some prominent temples around the town. The foundation for Mother Tamil Temple, first of its kind was laid in 1975 and completed in 1993. Karaikudi is famous for its collection of KANDANGI cotton sarees. 25th July 1948 was the golden letter day for this desolate village in the Chettinad Region , that saw the rise of the prestigious CSIR - Central Electro Chemical Research Institute, initiated by Rm. Alagappa Chettiar, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Santhi Swaroop Bhatnagar. Foundation stone was laid by the Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru; while doing so, he said “… I believe by such undertakings and by yoking science to public good we can advance the lot of the people of India enormously”. This was dedicated to the nation on the 14th January, 1953 as the 12th such Laboratory under the banner of CSIR, by Dr. S.Radhakrishnan, the then president of India. The Institute has helped over 5000 research papers and has affiliated itself with the Anna University, to conduct a four-year Bio Technology courses in Chemical and Electro-Chemical Engineering and Technology.
Athangudi village manufactures these tiles, hence the tiles are identified by this name. These tiles come in a myriad of colors and patterns, made by a unique process using local soil and glass plates. It is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Chettinad, effectively adapted many external influences to their own brand of local craftsmanship. Though the designs and colors used are of the bygone era, new designs and patterns are being tried these days. These tiles are hand-made, with a short shelf life and relatively slow manufacturing process. This had led to the decline in market demand.
The Kailasanathar Nithyakalyani, is the first of the clan temple, 25 kms from Karaikudi on the Kunrakudi road, Via Nemam, Keelasivalpatti and Avinipatti. Nagarathars received this place as a grant in the year 707 A.D. The temple is known for its great sculptural value and it has the biggest OORANI or the Temple Tank. Soora sashti and Karthikai Deepam and Mahasivarathiri are few of the important festivals of this place. Legend says: Because this was believed to the resting place of the gods this was called as Illaipatrankudi [ilaippu meaning tiredness, attru meaning to relieve and kudi meaning place] and got corrupted as Ilayathangudi as the years passed by. Mahadevendra Saraswati Shankaracharya Swamiji, 65th Acharya of the Kanchi Kamkoti Peetam attained siddhi [eternal bliss] in 1891 at Ilayathangudi and a Temple [Adishtanam] has been built by the Nattukottai Chettiars on his Samadhi[tomb].
The Vairavanpatti temple is 15 kms from Karaikudi. This is an awesome 19th century temple, with a tank still considered as a testimony to Dravidian architectural skills. Vairava Theertham, a sacred spring said to have miraculous powers is located behind the Nagarathar choultry. The temple has 23 bronzes and 12 vahanams , exotic wall paintings of Vairava Puranam  , Ramayana  and a few from the Mahabharata too. The main deities here are Lord Aatkondanathar and Sivapurandevi. As per the legend, Siva incarnated as Bairavar (Vairavar in Tamil) and destroyed Sooran. He then appeared as a celestial light (Peroli). He is called as 'Valaroli Nathar'. Bairavar / Vairavar is called as the Raja Marthanda Bairavar enshrined seperately.
The Soorakudi temple dedicated to Lord Desikanathan and Avudainayaki, is about 10 kms from Karaikudi on the road to Kanadukathaan and the Chettinad railway station. This town gets this name because of the abundance of Soorai shrub found in this region. Ten vimanams, two Rajagopuram one with architecturally rich Five Tier structure on the east, speaks about the architectural highlights of this temple. Added to this are the sculptured pillars on the corridor around the shrines of the main deities. This temple of the Nagarathar clan is held in high esteem for its sculptures.
The last clan temple is the Velankudi temple, granted to this clan in 718, is located 10 kms from Karaikudi on the Thiruchirapalli road. Because it is surrounded by Vela Trees it is called as the Velankudi. This temple is worshipped by smallest clan among the Nagarathars. The population of the clan did not change much over the past hundred year, hence this temple did not receive big attention. The last Consecration or Kumbabishekam ceremony was performed in the year 1937. The temple was granted to the Nagarathars in 718 A.D. Lord Sandeeswara [Sandikeswarar] is the main deity of this Temple and Kamatchi Amman is enshrined separately in this temple.
Sri Atkondanathar temple is 25 kms from Karaikudi on the Pillaiyarapatti road, near Keelasivalpatti. 50 bronzes, an exotic Nataraja Statue dating to the 12th -13th century period are the speciality of this temple. This temple finds One bronze of the 16th century, Pancha ulogam [ 5-metal alloy] of the 17th century, 19th and 20th century and awesome paintings of the Lakshmi mandapam and Vijayanagar style paintings. The Paintings of the 1940’s second renovation display the Ravi Varma influence.
It is situated 15 kms west of karaikudi 8 Kms east of Thirupattur. Karpaka Vinayagar Temple , world famous Vinayagar temple visited by millions of devotees is located here. Nagaraththar of Chettinad maintain the temple activities. It is the best known of the Nagarathar Clan temples. The five tier Rajagopuram is on the eastern entrance. Six feet tall, 5th Century statue, the Presiding Deity called as Karpaga Vinayagar [valampuri posture] is a Huge bas-relief in a cave hewn out of a hillock and is a splendid example of the art and architecture of the South Indian Sculptor. 10th century 30 bronzes are found in the temple. Shrines of Thiruveswarar and his consort Sivagami are enshrined in the temple. Ganesh Chathurthi festival during August-September is the main festival of the temple. Sankata Hara Chathurthy of every month is also celebrated in a grand manner. The main festival attracts visitors from all over India and abroad.
The Ainootheswarar- Periyanayaki Temple called as the Mathur temple is 5 kms from Karaikudi via Iluppakudi. Five tier, 70 feet tall Rajagopuram is the special feature of this temple. Apart from this, A single rock cut Mandapadm, with two elephants in the front and Two Dwara palakas [Entrance guards ] at the entrance of the Sanctum sanctorum is another special feature of this temple. Vizha mandpam was built in 1949 with a seating capacity of over 500 persons. Excavations that brought out many archaeological evidences including Burial urns to indicate that there were settlements in this area even before 1500 years.
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