Chettinad, the Chettiar mansions • Tamil Nadu, India

Step into the past with an under-five-minute visual journey showcasing the palaces of wealthy Nagarathar merchants and the grand Chettiar mansions in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India. This concise, captivating video takes you through their opulent architecture, timeless elegance and intricate cultural motifs. Each frame is a testament to the rich heritage and prosperity of the bygone era. The journey is complemented with an informative text, revealing the fascinating history of these spectacular edifices. Experience grandeur and history, swiftly delivered to your screen in a few short minutes. Don't miss this illuminating and educational virtual tour!

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip India • South India 2018 • Tamil Nadu and Kerala (EN)

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Reading the text below will help you better understand the historical context of the sites shown in this video.

Nagarathar or Nattukottai Chettiar 

Since ancient times, a nomadic tribe named Nagarathar traded in salt between southern India and neighboring countries. The Nagarathar are also known as Nattukottai Chettiar, Chettiar being the name of the upper caste to which they belonged. 

Originally the Nagathars were based in Naganadu, near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu in South India. Naganadu was destroyed, either by an earthquake or by catastrophic floods. They then had to resign themselves to leaving this place which had become inhospitable. 

The history of the Chettiar goes back several millennia. The trade in salt, an extremely precious commodity at the time, was very profitable. But the mercantile spirit of the Nagarathar pushed them to diversify their products over the centuries and they also traded in rice and cotton. Later, merchants added banking and money lending to their skill sets. 


The Chettinad region is an area of around 1500 square kilometers in the Sivagangai district in southern Tamil Nadu. 

The region has 73 villages, the largest of which is Karaikudi, considered the capital of Chettinad. 

History of Nagarathar Settlement in Chettinad 

The South Indian Merchant Guilds enjoyed good relations with the local monarchies, as both commerce and political power had an interest in cooperating to ensure their respective prosperity. For reasons that are still debated by historians, the Nagarathar settled in the Chettinad region. 

Some historians claim they were persecuted by a king of the Chola dynasty, who ruled much of eastern India for almost 1,500 years (from the 3rd or 4th century BCE until the 13th century CE). Christ) and would then have found refuge in the region of Chettinad. 

Others believe that it was a Pandyan king who invited them to settle in the region so that they could benefit from their knowledge of trade. The Pandyan dynasty dominated present-day Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka in the early AD. 

Chettiar Mansions 

However, it was much later that the Chettiars began to build houses that could be described as palaces in the villages of the Chettinad region. It dates back to the 19th century. Dozens of houses competing in luxury, mixing Indian and Western architectural elements came out of the ground at this time. A great refinement characterizes these palaces. 

The period of construction of these palaces was to last until the end of World War II and India's independence in 1947. The war years in South and Southeast Asia ruined the Chettiars who settled in the Chettinad region. Many then emigrated to other countries, such as Singapore or Malaysia, where they continued to do thriving business. 

These mansions are known for their distinctive architecture, which blends Indian and foreign styles. Chettiar mansions are often built using local materials, such as lime, plaster, wood and tile, and are decorated with wooden carvings, ceramic tiles and brass fittings. 

The houses were also designed for practicality, with features such as interior courtyards, skylights, and sophisticated ventilation systems to cope with the region's hot and humid climate. 

But the houses have mostly been abandoned. 

Nowadays, there are still some that are inhabited, but which are far from having preserved their splendor of yesteryear. 

A walk through the streets of these chettiar villages between magnificent ghostly palaces leaves lasting memories engraved in the memory. Between the splendor of the past and the sad decadence of these oversized palaces, these villages leave no one indifferent.


about the place, Chettinad:

In the south of India in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the region called Chettinad, the Nattukottai Chetiar were a thriving business and banking community. Their activities in Asia were so successful that they built palaces in their villages.

chettiar mansion, Chettinad, Tamil Nadu • India

What's the weather like in Chettinad?

Spoken comments in the film: 

The history of the Chettiars is very old. Traveling traders for millennia, members of the Nagarathar tribe have grown rich over the centuries and had magnificent palaces built in the 19th century, mixing Indian and Western architecture in the villages of the Chettinad region in southern Tami Nadu where they settled. 

More information is available on the travel-video website (see link in comments).



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chettiar mansion, Chettinad • India • Tamil Nadu

chettiar mansion

chettiar house with courtyard, Chettinad • India • Tamil Nadu

chettiar house with courtyard

inner courtyard of a chettiar house, Chettinad • India • Tamil Nadu

inner courtyard of a chettiar house

interior of a chettiar house, Chettinad • India • Tamil Nadu

interior of a chettiar house

Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India

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