decided to write my first JBR since that seems to be an interesting thing to do, plus i could have benefited by some JBR's on chettinadu.
we saw pictures of some old mansions in chettinadu and knew we had to visit... the old mansions looked beautiful. also we had heard so much about chettinadu cuisine over the years, but being vegetarian it never really excited us. but on seeing the mansions we knew there was more to this place than just the food!
first steps we had to find a nice place to stay. we chanced upon Visalam - and of course once we saw that we knew we wanted to stay there. none of the places in karaikudi or nearby seemed nearly as good!
we were in ooty and had to get to karaikudi (which is the nearest station). we had a ticket booked which didn't get confirmed, so we were forced to cancel that and take a bus. of course there is not direct bus, so quite an adventurous ride, we took a bus to coimbatore, then another one from coimbatore to trichy!!! we reached trichy in the wee hours of the morning after some really loud videos and music through the night on the bus we had caught.... learning: book bus travel in advance.... esp. during festive season - we were traveling during a long holiday weekend!
from trichy, after a nice cup of good filter kaapi (coffee), we hopped into an old ambassador driven by a man who looked 80, but said he was 70! he was so old that at times he didnt see ditches in the road. so we were back-seat driving (read panicking!) he almost banged into another old man who was strolling across the highway!!! but was a quaint journey as ones in ambassadors always are!
we reached visalam only to be awed by the beauty of the house. it was better than the pictures. plus we were greeted by really sweet people who even made the rest of our stay brilliant...
we learnt so much from the locals, during our long conversations...!
kannadukathan is one of the 78 villages that are currently part of 'chettinadu'. there used to be around 93 we were told! the chettiars were the business community of south! they lived along coastal tamilnadu - which made sense as it explained the coconut in their cuisine. but post a devastating tsunami they ran into the interiors to a place with no water! so chettinadu on first site seems arid and dry...
the business community, that they are, travelled all over south east asia and traded! thus these riches were ploughed back into their villages in india. so they built houses over years... some took 10 - 20 years to complete. so when money came their way they built, then the house was put on 'pause', till the next construction! they decorated their house lavishly, refusing to buy any local material. all sourced from abroad. thus while visiting the houses one would see tiles from japan, glass and mirrors from belgium, teak wood beams from burma...
once there we realised we needed a mode of transport, there was regular buses but if we wanted to visit houses in other villages + the main town of karaikudi we needed something. so we borrowed the bike from the manager of the hotel! who lent it to us without a blink of his eyelid! it made everything so much more convenient and accessible as we zipped around the countryside!
we visited houses, temples, nearby villages. and of course got lost in the by-lanes while moving from village to village! but that added to the experience!
we visited many houses in the cross roads of lanes that were behind our hotel. and there was so so so many beautiful houses. each as good if not better than the previous. we even visited near-by villages to see the famous houses from those places like 'the periya veedu' meaning big house at a nearby village! and its truly huge and spectacular....
it was extremely sad to see that today many of these families do not have the money to put back into their houses. plus its becoming tough to sell it as houses here have multiple owners. its something that has passed down generations - and everyone gets a bit. so we actually say a house divided into rooms and each room owned by a different member / branch of the family! something that we have never come across otherwise!
we visited athangudi, the village famous for its handmade tiles... and were awed by the beauty of these simple creations. we also bought to tiles and lugged them all the way to mumbai. just!
so everytime i see those tiles in my living room i am reminded of the colours of chettinadu! its definitely a must-do... i got to see another side of tamilnadu and its ppl that i didnt know about... and living in an old house meant i almost experienced a part of history, that i cant always do in these urban times i live in... :)Edited: 2:43 am, October 27, 2012