Heritage Mansions, Antique Ware and Spicy Chettinad Cuisine at Karaikudi

What is It?

Karaikudi is a small town situated in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu. The town, which is believed to have been formed in late 1800s, is home to the rich and affluent Nagarathar Chettiars {a business community of Tamil Nadu}. The town and its surrounding areas are collectively called the Chettinad Region. Karaikudi is now recognised as a Heritage Town by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

How to Get There?

Karaikudi is situated around 428 kilometres from Bangalore. There are no direct trains from Bangalore, though; the easiest way to reach Karaikudi would be to take a bus {many private operators and state transport buses ply from the city}. Driving one’s own car is a possibility. The journey could take around 10 hours.

Where to Stay?

There are many heritage and regular hotels around the town suitable for both budget and the luxury traveller. We recommend Chidambara Vilas or Saratha Vilas in the luxury category. We recommend Naarayana Inn if you’re looking for basic rooms on a budget. Their yummy Chettinad breakfast is well worth consideration.

What to See and Do?

The wealthy Nagarathars had built huge mansions filled with antiques and curios from around the world. Makrana/Italian marble flooring, Belgian glass chandeliers, Burmese teak furniture and fittings, Czechoslovakian enamelware… You name it, they had it. Kanadukathan, a sleepy little village, is where you will find these mansions.

Some are in complete ruins, while others have been maintained well and are open to the public for visits. Do not miss the Aayiram Jannal Veedu {1,000 window house} and Chettinad Raja Palace. Other than the Chettiar mansions, Tirumaiyam Fort, Pillaiyarpatti Temple, Kundrakudi Shanmuganathan Temple are major tourist attractions.

The region is heaven for lovers of antiques, architecture, vintage decor, handwoven sarees and baskets. The main antique market is situated right in the city of Karaikudi. You will find everything from small knick knacks to huge antique doors, pillars and teak wood furniture in the market. Prices start from INR 100.

Kanadukathan is also dotted with small weaving centres, where one can buy gorgeous Kandanghi cotton sarees fresh off the loom. A visit to one of the many Athangudi tile factories will leave you itching to try a hand at the beautiful craft, where each tile is painstakingly made by hand. The must-buys include: Antiques for the home, Kandanghi Sarees, Athangudi tiles, and woven baskets.

A Must Try

Chettinad is also a foodie’s delight. Known for the fiercely spicy curries, this is one place where vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike have plenty of eating options. Chidambara Vilas, Naarayana Inn and The Bangala have special unlimited thalis starting at INR 800 and upwards. The restaurants get booked fully during peak season, so advance reservations are highly recommended. Don’t miss out on other regional staples such as Rattha Poriyal (non-veg), Paniyarams and Kavini Arisi (black rice pudding).

Best Time to Visit

Most of the year it is very hot, but the ideal time to visit is from October to November, and till early March.