Chettinad is a small district of Tamil Nadu near Tanjore famed for its unique cuisine, magnificent palatial homes and fascinating local arts and crafts. The people of this area are the Chettiars, a small sub-caste of merchants and traders who for many decades up to roughly the middle of last century where the bankers and facilitators of trade on behalf of the British Raj in south India. This activity allowed them to amass significant fortunes which they used to create some of the most remarkable homes to be seen anywhere in the country. In a series of otherwise unremarkable villages around the Chettinad region, dwellings were built which often exceeded 40,000 sq ft and consisted of 100 or more rooms. While sadly some of them are now falling into disrepair, there is an awareness of the need to protect and restore these fantastic buildings, and a couple have been opened as heritage hotels of the very highest standard. There are not many places in Tamil Nadu which allow visitors to actually stay in a small village and the opportunity to spend some time amongst the local people is one of the most rewarding experiences in south India. Special mention should also be made of the Chettinad cuisine- spicy but not overly hot it employs unusual ingredients and unique ways of reinventing traditional south Indian dishes. Chettinad is also renowned for the beauty of the hand-painted tiles which are made here in very traditional ways. The district headquarters of Karaikudi is a bustling town with an entire street of antique shops- well worth an afternoon's exploration. The Chettinad region is one of our favourites in Tamil Nadu and we strongly recommend including time here during any south Indian sojourn.
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