Located in the Sivagangai and Pudukottai districts of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Chettinad is a popular destination to visit for more reasons than one. Synonymous with grandeur and opulence, Chettinad was originally the home of the wealthy Nattukottai Chettiars. A merchant community who traded in spices and precious metals, the Chettiars were also successful bankers who often travelled abroad and returned home with immense wealth. They splurged most of their wealth in building palatial mansions replete with Belgian mirrors, exquisite stained-glass windows and lavish chandeliers in their home towns. Timber was imported from Burma and used for the doors and pillars of these homes. Apart from these mansions, the region, which comprises of about 73 villages and two towns – Karaikudi and Pudukottai is well known for Athangudi tiles, its clan temples, Chettinad handlooms and of course Chettinad cuisine. The latter is renowned for its rich use of diverse spices to obtain bold flavours.
If you are a fan of museums, then the newly opened Chettinad museum must be on your list. It is a celebration of the Chettiar way of life and the displays includes photographs, artefacts and objects that document the day-to-day life of the Chettiars during the yesteryears. The museum is small but engaging to say the least.
Located within a traditional Chettiar home, the museum is spread over a couple of floors and houses interesting displays. The architecture of the house has typical features associated with Chettinad mansions like large arch shaped stained-glass windows as well as rich mosaic and handmade Athangudi tiles that have a characteristic sheen. Relive the times of the bygone era as you walk through the display of vintage suitcases, handwoven baskets, kitchen equipment and vessels of varying size and shape.
Do not miss the exquisite glassware and porcelain that were mostly imported by the merchants. Pickle jars, grinding stones as well as brass and copper urns reflect the rituals of the past.
Given that Chettiars were successful businessmen, the display of the od ledger books, journals, account documents and gadgets like the typewriter are noteworthy. Furniture including wooden cradles, chairs etc are also on display. Heritage family portraits, photographs and paintings are also depicted.
Apart from this there are pictures of all the 73 villages along with their respective clan temples as well as that of important monuments.
Another highlight is the display of stamps issue in honour of several well known Chettiar merchants.
The layout is well planned and uncluttered which allows visitors to walk through the displays easily. The museum is accessible by a short drive from the quaint town of Kanadukathan. Apart from this one, the Alagappa Chettiar Museum, Nachiappa Swamigal Chettinadu Heritage Museum and the Chettinad Vintage Car and Camera museum are other key museums that you can visit when in Chettinad.
3 thoughts on “Chettinad Museum: An ode to Chettiar culture, heritage and lifestyle”
Nice, well written and informative article.