The Chettinad region is located 90 km from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, with a semi-arid area of 1,550 sq km. It is occupied by the chettiars or chetti families, who belong to a wealthy clan of traders and financiers who amassed their wealth by trading in Southeast Asia during the 19th century. This region represents authentic architecture, known for its artistic work with a mix of traditional Indian architecture and a touch of European influence. The exotic structures are made with materials that ensure longevity and encourage natural light and ventilation, which is beneficial for the resident’s health.
Elements of Chettinad House:
The Chettinad houses are renowned for their lavishness, grand scale, use of vibrant hues, rich wooden cravings, local craftsmanship, and for importing materials from all over the world, including Burmese teak, Italian marble, Belgian glass, and so forth. Due to modern and contemporary designs, the Chettinad vernacular architecture has declined. The decor is enriched with color and culture thanks to brassware and Tanjore paintings. These homes typically have single-story courtyards, athangudi tiles, marble, teak wood, and traditional antiques.
These colorful tiles come from the hamlet of Athangudi in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. They are a visual treat with their variety of hues and patterns and have a special shine that makes them the perfect tile for indoor and outdoor applications. I made the tiles from locally sourced clay that has been burned and gazed at, which is skillfully created by hand into patterns of varying colors and patterns. They are used for wall cladding and flooring in residences.
Carved pillars and doors:
The Chettinad house is known for its beautiful carved doors and pillars, which are typically used in the construction of grand buildings such as palaces, temples, and mansions. These works of art are highly prized for their beauty and craftsmanship and are often admired by people worldwide. The intricately carved pillars and doors are made of wood, stone, or granite. The design of the pillars was given a lot of importance, especially the upper and lower section was minutely detailed. The doors are detailedly carved, to make them look majestic and rigid.
Wall plastering is an important part of the construction of traditional Chettinad houses. The plaster is applied to the walls in multiple layers, and each layer is left to dry before the next one is added. Once the plaster has dried, skilled craftsmen use special tools to create intricate designs and patterns on the surface. These designs often include geometric shapes, floral motifs, and scenes from Hindu mythology. The result is a beautifully textured and visually stunning surface that is both functional and decorative.
The courtyards found in traditional Chettinad houses are large open spaces that are surrounded by rooms on all sides. They are used as a central gathering place for the family and serve as a source of natural ventilation and light. Courtyards in Chettinad houses are an important part of the region’s cultural heritage and are admired for their beauty, functionality, and historical significance. They continue to be an important part of local architecture and are appreciated by visitors worldwide.
The architectural layout of Chettinad houses is known for its unique blend of traditional Indian and colonial influences. The houses are typically built around a central courtyard and feature a series of interconnected rooms that are arranged around it. The houses are usually two or three stories high, and a grand staircase accesses the upper floors. The ground-floor rooms typically have high ceilings, large windows, and ornate doorways. They are often used for entertaining guests and are decorated with intricate wood carvings and frescoes. The upper floors are used as living quarters and are typically more modestly decorated.
They feature smaller windows and are designed to provide privacy and protection from the heat and humidity of the region. Chettinad houses also often feature large, open verandas or balconies overlooking the surrounding gardens and courtyards. These outdoor spaces are typically decorated with intricate tile work and provide a cool and shaded area for relaxing or socializing. The architectural layout of Chettinad houses is admired for its beauty, functionality, and historical significance. It reflects the region’s rich cultural heritage and the influence of various colonial powers that ruled the area over the centuries. Today, Chettinad houses are an important part of the region’s tourism industry and are appreciated by visitors worldwide.
Stucco is a decorative plastering technique that is often used in the construction of Chettinad houses. The mixture of lime, sand, and water is applied to a smooth and textured surface, then sculpted into intricate designs inspired by traditional Indian motifs. In Chettinad houses, stucco work is often used to decorate the ceilings and walls of the central courtyards, as well as the exterior walls of the house. Traditional Indian motifs, such as floral patterns, geometric shapes, and mythological figures typically inspire the designs. The stucco is applied in layers; each layer is left to dry before the next one is added.
Once the stucco has dried, skilled craftsmen use special tools to create intricate designs and patterns on the surface. The designs are often highlighted with paint or gold leaf to give them a dramatic effect. Stucco work in Chettinad houses is important in preserving the region’s cultural heritage and traditional building techniques. The plastering process requires skill and expertise, and the finished product is a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry of the local craftsmen. The stucco work adds a unique and beautiful touch to the already stunning architecture of Chettinad houses.
Pitched roofs are a common feature of Chettinad houses, known for their unique architectural style and attention to detail. A pitched roof is a type of roof that has a sloping surface on both sides and is often used in areas with heavy rainfall or snow. In Chettinad, pitched roofs are typically made of clay tiles or thatch and are designed to protect from the heavy monsoon rains that are common in the region. The roofs are supported by wooden beams or columns, often intricately carved and decorated.
The pitched roofs in Chettinad houses are typically steeply sloped, which allows rainwater to drain away from the surface quickly. This helps prevent damage to the roof and the surrounding walls and ensures that the house’s interior remains dry. Pitched roofs are an essential part of the architecture of Chettinad houses and are admired for their beauty, functionality, and historical significance. They reflect the region’s traditional building techniques and the influence of various colonial powers that ruled the area over the centuries.
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