A home to 100 year old traditions

Visalam

Visalam

Chettinad
, Tamil Nadu
, India

Visalam is a heritage house of rare distinction. An endearing symbol of love that captures the soul of Chettinad, a region renowned for its palatial homes, fiery cuisine and colourful culture. A window to the unique ways of life of the prosperous trading community of the Chettiars of Tamil Nadu.

Our Rating: Premium
Property Type: Heritage

Destination

Chettinad is a cluster of 72 villages in Sivaganga district of Southern Tamilnadu, India. Kanadugathan, one of the larger 9 villages, is dynamic center of Chettiar communal and economic life.

Walking about the narrow streets of Kanadukathan seems like stepping back in time. Majestic villas, imposing colonial-style bungalows and other stately ruins of a bygone era impress onlookers with their stature and grandeur. The marketplace is abuzz with activities that have not changed in a long time – crafts, jewellery, sculpture and woodwork – all of which form the economic, social and cultural leitmotif of this dynamic and ingenious merchant community. Shoppers can make some great buys and bargains here! And for those of you drawn to religion and want to explore the sacred in the lives of these people, Kanadukathan abounds in many temples known for their unique history, most notably the ancient 1800 years old Pallayiar Patti temple a short ride away.

Accommodation

The palatial mansions of the Chettiar community are testaments to an aesthetic sense that was lofty in its conception and painstaking in its details.

Visalam is a veritable museum, having preserved almost everything of its original character and interiors. The rooms are large with high ceilings, gleaming floors and polished windows and doors that characterize comfort and luxury of a very warm and intimate kind. The furniture is period in style, flawlessly crafted and made from the finest Burma teak. The floors and walls are inlaid with the famous handmade Aathangudy tiles.

Guests can choose to stay in suites or rooms, both offering large space, luxury and elegance of the highest quality.

To complement the built heritage, the hotel’s service style is also rooted in the local traditions and culture.

Dining

Chettinad cuisine’s unique character is the result of ingenious blends that delicately combine south-east Asian spices, like star anise, with other Indian ingredients that pull you into a sensory domain all its own. If you are a food lover in search of new gastronomic adventures then Visalam will have plenty for you to savour.

Experiences

Cooking

Take part in interactive kitchen sessions and learn the fine secrets that lie behind this singular cuisine of southern India. Guests are welcomed to come into the traditional Chettiar kitchen to learn from the local lady cook and have a meal amidst the aroma of the spices.

Handloom Cotton Weavers

The famed Chettinad’s Cotton sarees and textiles are woven on in small handloom home units across Chettinad. A couple minutes walk away from Visalam is one such handloom unit making the most vibrant Indian textile.

Cycling around Chettinad

For those who prefer to bike around, Visalam can provide bicycles to go exploring the bylanes of Chettinad.

Why we love this place

Visalam was built by Ramanathan Chettiar for his eldest daughter more than a century ago. However, it never became the lively family home it was intended to be and was used only for occasional family gatherings. Its conversion into a current restoration was sensitively undertaken, with great care and skill. The building’s interiors remain unchanged except to partition its vast halls into comfortable guest rooms. The ambiance still exudes the spirit of the times it was built in, with its character retained.

Visalam is a veritable showpiece for local traditional art and craft. Everywhere you’ll find the famous handmade tiles that are a leitmotif in many a grand Chettinad home. The pearly lustre of the plastering of the walls and pillars of the homes is unique to this region – astonishingly smooth and glossy finishes that have to be seen and touched to be believed. The bed runners, cushions and even the uniforms of staff at Visalam are sourced from the famed handloom weavers of Chettinad who still make colourful cotton fabrics the traditional way.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

Conservation
The traditional homes of the Chettiar community in Chettinad and its environs are known for their grandeur and elegance. Sadly many lie abandoned and at risk of losing their alluring history. Visalam has been earnestly conserved, through careful restoration. This great home of a prominent family of one of the oldest trading communities of Tamil Nadu.
Respecting the Environment
Visalam manages its waste efficiently, employs renewable energy and practices rainwater harvesting.
Fostering traditional skills and culture
Visalam has sought out and worked closely with many skilled and specialised artisans of the Chettinad region during the restoration. The tile makers, weavers, carpenters and stone workers have all contributed their unique talents and knowledge to breathe life again into this 100 year old building. The culture and traditions of the trading Chettiar community and the local villagers are incorporated in the hospitality.
Local Staff
A good number of the team at Visalam – staff, suppliers, guides and interpreters – are all from the local villages. Their first-hand understanding of the place and its history is a great and unique asset.

Can’t find a suitable itinerary that features a destination, experience or accommodation you fancy? All our group tours and holiday ideas can be personalised, or we can create a tailor made itinerary for you.

Our Accommodation Ratings

Opulent: Exceptional, unashamedly the best of sheer luxury. (£££££)

Luxury: Outstanding levels of 5* comfort, hospitality and facilities. (££££)

Premium: Excellent levels of comfort and hospitality and a wide range of facilities. (£££)

Mid-Range: Good levels of comfort and hospitality, with a reasonable range of facilities. (££)

Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)