The Bangala Chettinad

By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2016

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We drove into Karaikudi Chettinad from Thanjavur. After some asking landed at a hotel The Bangala. This album has pics of the hotel, mansion named MSMM House and antique shops. Pics of Chettinad mansions elsewhere is a separate album. This is the dining hall.

This is the entrance and reception area. It is a small building that was originally made as a club by the founders. Karaikudi is 90kms from Trichy and Madurai and 400 kms from Chennai.

Ceiling of the room where the owner sits. It has pictures of Gods on either side, note wood work. Chettinad homes are known for their woodwork and tiles as you shall see. "The region comprises some 78 villages, originally 96, dominated by the prosperous Nattukotai Chettiar community of businessmen and bankers. Karaikudi is the region’s principal town."

This is the lobby. Simple but classy. This was originally built as a CLUB in 1916, a Men''s Leisure Club. It was converted into a heritage hotel The Bangala about 1999. Between 1920-50 traditional and art deco architecture was in fashion. To know more about The Bangala Heritage Click here

Photos of the ancestors of owners on lobby wall. From discussions with staff got to know that Chettiars came here from Kanchipuram only about 200 years ago. Till private banks were nationalised they travelled for trade to S.E. Asian countries with Chettinad as base. Thereafter, many moved to cities. Much of their profits went into building these grand residences, which used to be called natukottai or regional fort."

View of garden. Left is dining hall which u saw in pic 1, centre structure is the kitchen gallery where cooking demos are held and utensils displayed.

A display of utensils utilised in Chettinad homes. Of the 11,000 odd mansions only half are believed to exist today. Chettiars now live in bigger cities, come home for family functions only. I was pained to see a home where sick and aged parents lived with another elderly relative looking after them.

A view of the swimming pool, loved it. We had tea and water melon juice at the hotel. Very good and super service too.

Couple of Germany. It is a lovely place to stay for a longish weekend. U can visit other mansions, the famous Pillaiyar Patti temple ie 12 kms away, Sivan Temple, Muthu Mariamman Temple and Koppudaiamman temple. Mansions details follow.

Master Chef Karuppiah conducting a cooking demo of the famous Chettinad food for guests. Rooms are available in heritage and new blocks. Loved the place. To know about Chettinad cuisine Click here

The Bangala was fully booked when we went. With difficulty got to click a room. For reservations mail the or call 91 44 24934851. Site is Click here

The Bangala also has a shop where you get books etc. Homes worth visiting at Chettinad Palace (can see from outside), MSMM House, Chettinad Mansion (now a hotel, went there not very impressive, Hotel Visalam - super, M A Ramaswamy family palaces -super, Sarathavilas, Chidambaram Villa etc. "Karaikudi is also home to Ayiram Jannal Veedu (the house with a thousand windows) but as it is lived in, tourists are not allowed to enter." The Periya Veedu (big house) in Athangudi is exceptionally beautiful. To know more about mansions and what to see Click here

MSMM House owned by the Meyyappan family. The actual entrance you will see later, this is a modern day entrance. From here we went to Kanadukathan village to see Chettinad Mansion, met manager of Hotel Visalam for permission to shoot pics and saw Ramaswamy Palace by night-wow.

A front view of the entrance. The glass work, tiles, columns so neatly designed. Usually only guests of the Bangala Hotel can visit MSMM House, got special permission to shoot pics. "Pallathur, Devakottai and Kothamangalam villages, all within a 50 km-radius of the main town of Karaikudi, are also well known for their grand mansions". Visit Periya Minor''s veedu in Devakottai, is supposed to be o/s with carved pillars, Italian floor tiles and a Spanish tiled roof". It is 13 kms from Karaikaudi.

This is the first room as we entered. "Chettair is derived from the word seth (businessman) with the honorific suffiz of ar added later."

Entrance to room 2. Design allows you see right to the other end of the bldg at one go. How did they get balance so right? "Mansions have granite and marble pillars, polished and carved Burma teak, superb decorative tiles, Thanjavur paintings and crystal chandeliers".

Room two, ceiling has tiles as do walls. Lots of pictures of gods and goddesses and family on walls. "The Nattukottai Chettiar traders followed the expansion of the British Empire into S.E.Asia for their business. They brought back Burmese teak and European tiles for their mansions, as well as the inspiration from colonial and palace architecture. They also incorporated the wealth of wood sculpting and craftsmanship from local craftsmen in their homes."

A close up of ceiling tile. "Interiors use traditional athangudi tiles (named after village that makes them, we missed going) in natural dyes shaded indigo and green, sometimes crimson".

This is a big hall with rooms all around, covered in some detail. "Chettinad architecture stands out for its use of large spaces in halls and courtyards, ornate embellishments like Belgian glasswork, intricate woodwork, spectacular ceramic tiles, stone, iron and wooden pillars like nothing else that can be seen in this part of the world. "

A side view, we went about 4.30 ish - wish we could have gone in morning to take advantage of natural sunlight, trip schedule was too tight.

Close up of one of the doors. "Business acumen has left an unparralled legacy of arts patronage and sustained philanthropy. Grand mansions and beautiful temples rises like mirages".

Panel on top of door. Note intricate wood work. In Karaikudi stay in Hotel Udayan or Subhalakshmi Palace (rooms up to 3K). Best part they organise tours of mansions with a guide, say Rs 400/ a day.

The big hall is open to the second floor, this is the balcony on the first floor.

Same area tiles on ceiling. To read briefly about Chettinad Architecture Click here

View of same hall from other side. "The basic floor plan of a Chettinad house consists of an outside verandah (thinnai) for guests, with a room for conducting business on one or both ends; an interior courtyard to be used in ceremonies, with a raised seating area at one or both ends; a series of small double rooms opening off the main courtyard, for storage, prayer and sleeping and a small courtyard behind for cooking and for the women to socialize."

Now moved to another floor, again rooms on all sides with courtyard in centre. The mansion is very well maintained.

A side view of the courtyard and rooms on ground and first floors. Imagine the number of rooms in mansion.

Corridor on side of same courtyard. Note ceiling and fans. "Walls are plastered with a mixture of powdered shells, lime, jaggery and spices. It keeps the interior of the house cool and lasts a lifetime".

A panelled door.

Close up of panel on top of door.

Ceiling of corridor. To read briefly about Chettinad Culture Click here

Now move to another building ka first floor in the same mansion. Red tiled roofs with open to the sky courtyard.

Rooms on right of pic, pillars covered with cloth for protection. Note the ceiling.

Close up of ceiling wood work.

Close up of top panel of one of the doors.

This is the rear side of main door entrance. It has a huge key. I should have removed the key and taken a pic but missed doing. U can see how huge keys are by clicking on the National Geographic link in pic no 12.

U see front entrance of the mansion. Last pic was rear side of main door entrance. Before showing u close up of main door thought of showing u mansion front side.

Main door entrance. "Wood is worked in massive doorways that showcase the most dexterous carvings".

Close up of door and floor tiles.

View of wooden panelling on either side of door.

Wood work top side of door, you see one of the two sides.

Top door panel. Amazing na.

Another mansion, closed just outside the MSMM one.

We decided to visit the market and check on antique stuff from Chettiar homes on sale. Many many shops. Chairs, cupboards, lamp shades.

Close up of wooden pillars. Had heard so much about mansions of Chettinad. Their achitecture and design exceeded expectations. Hope to visit again. Yeah Dil Mange More.

Lamps etc for sale in a small shop. Some shops did not allow me to click pics.

Main door, pillar, utensils. Our Tamil Nadu Yatra had a very tight schedule, wish could have spent half a day more and been a bit more organised with my research.

Furniture, pillars, paintings, wooden panels. Loved short but eventful visit to Karaikudi. Some info for captions taken from the Outlook Traveller Heritage Holidays book, National Geographic site and The Bangala site.

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