The Chettinad region is a treasure trove of exquisitely decorated Nattukottai, (traditional familial homes), built in the 19th/20th-century by wealthy Chettiyars, a prosperous banking and mercantile community who made their fortunes on the back of British rule in Sri Lanka, Burma and other colonies in Southeast Asia.

Their grand mansions reflected their cosmopolitan lives, with European, Mughal, Rajasthani and South Indian influences creating a vibrant mix of colours and shapes. A brightly coloured and tiled pillared courtyard is at the heart of most mansions. Ornate wood carvings, Belgian crystal and intricate plasterwork adorn the rooms. Their prospects and prosperity waned with the end of the World War II and the dissipation of the British Empire. Many families moved abroad, abandoning their mansions.

Today, the small towns and villages of Chettinad exude an olde-worlde charm, peaceful streets lined with grand mansions of mixed fortunes. Some crumbling neglected, while some have been renovated as heritage hotels or opened to the public.

Chettinad’s famous cuisine also reflects influences of far away places that Chettiars travelled to during the Raj. Mild, peppery and aromatic rather than hot, these are mostly coconut-based dishes served traditionally on green banana leaves.

We recommend you spend at least two nights in Chettinad. Besides the architectural and gastronomical delights, there is much joy to be had observing local artisans and craftsmen, visiting village temples and markets, just taking in the gentle rhythms of South Indian life.

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