Nagarathar or Nattukottai Chettiar

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

Originally the Nagathar 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 salt trade, 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, traders added banking and money lending activities to their skill sets.


The Chettinad region is an area of ​​around 1,500 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 the settlement of the Nagarathar in Chettinad

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

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

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

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 for luxury, mixing elements of Indian and Western architecture rose from the ground at this time. A very great refinement characterizes these palates.

The period of construction of these palaces would last until the end of the Second World War and the independence of India in 1947. The years of war in South and South-East Asia ruined the Chettiars installed in the Chettinad region. Many then emigrated to other countries, such as Singapore or Malaysia, where they continued to do successful business. But most of the houses have been abandoned.

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

A walk in 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.


** India **


Chettinad - Chettiar mansions

Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu

Tharangambadi (Tranquebar)

Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu
Chettiar houses, Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, india


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. 

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Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India