The extravagant mansions, bazaars and villages of the Chettinad region make a fascinating contrast to the ancient history of Tamil Nadu’s temple towns. The traditional home of the Chettiars, a once prosperous banking and business community, their legacy is an area rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture surrounded by rural life that’s best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Vast mansions built on the proceeds of trade now lie crumbling but behind the facades you will find interiors made of marble from Italy, tiles from Japan, teak from Burma and steel from England; one courtyard after another, rooms stuffed to the rafters with generations of cooking pots. You are welcome to look inside to discover the faded grandeur of villas, colonial style bungalows and wedding halls, some of which were never used.

Explore the lanes by bicycle, browse in the antique shops selling furniture and paintings of Chettiar families and watch hand loom weavers and tile makers at work before indulging in deliciously spicy Chettinad cuisine.

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Andrea Hulme
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