Before traveling to India, I came across an interesting article on Chettinad and its old mansion homes, I also have a friend here in North Carolina from this region who was telling me about her heritage and the culture of the area. When I discovered that a few of these old mansion homes had been converted into hotels I wanted to visit. I have seen them in Tamil movies and always loved the design with the central courtyard and grand pillars.
The Chettinad region is a collection of villages in Tamil Nadu, South India. The Chettinads are good business people and in the early 1900's they were in their golden age trading in precious stones, and Burmese Teak they also worked well with the British. They acquired great wealth at the time and built grand mansion homes, importing wood from Burma now Myanmar, pillars from England and making elaborate tiles. They are a proud people with a rich history and unique set of customs famous for their spicy cuisine and grand weddings.
After the war a lot of their wealth got stuck in Myanmar and many had to diversity into other businesses and move away. Its an interesting area to visit and staying in a mansion home is a fun experience. They are small hotels and you get lovely personal service and wonderful home cooked food. I am fortunate being married to an Indian to taste home cooked meals on my many trips to India, however many can't so the Chettinad mansion hotel is a lovely way to experience home cooked food. they also offer cooking lessons and a bullet cart ride through the village. This was actually my kids favorite experience in India.
Sadly not all of these homes are able to be maintained due to cost, and families living abroad, leaving the homes to be locked and only reopened when folks visit. On the bullet cart ride we stopped and toured a home like this. Its hard to capture the expanse of these mansions, they are huge the vine below helps some. The wee man is in a 150 year old kitchen playing with an old idly grinder you can also see a small door above this was a storage room for rice and below are old wood fired stoves.
There was an elderly couple in the center of this home in their 90's on chatting with them we discovered they were the owners, they seemed to be living a simple and low income life lost in the great expanse of a mansion stuck in time, reflecting its former glory. Thats why hotels are such a great idea, it brings in income to save these beautiful buildings and allows the world to enjoy them.
The sad state of many of these mansions a relic of the past.
quiet village streets
This one is owned by a cement company and very well maintained.
The village post office
The kids in the inner courtyard of Chettinad Mansion
, I highly recommend a stay here, we also got to chat with the owner. A lovely well read and traveled business man who owns a few resorts in Kerala.
A stop in another village on the way my kids were all about the farm animals.
Thats my father in law in the white.
village school children
The Village Temple.
You may notice the water level is low in the Temple pond. This area of Tamil Nadu is dry and very hot. Actually a lot of Tamil Nadu is in a drought at present and the famous Kaveri river in Trichy is very low because a neighboring state has built a dam and blocked the flow of the river. There is currently a fight in the courts and a big political issue as states fight for precious water.
To get to Chettinad you can either take a train to Tiruchirappalli / Trichy about 6 hours from Chennai then hire a driver for the 2 hour drive, or drive from Chennai I think about 7 hours. Or fly to Madurai visit the famous temples and drive 2 hours north. The roads are decent and its nice to see the countryside.