SARATHA VILAS HOTEL - CHETTINAD
Discover Chettinad Heritage
The region of Chettinad is located in the southern part of the State of Tamil Nadu (South India), with Chennai (Madras) as its capital. The main town of the region is Karaikkudi, which is 400 km south from Chennai and 90 km from the major sites of the state, such as Thanjavur (WHS UNESCO), Tiruchirapalli and Madurai.
It is inhabited, among other local communities, by some 110,000 Chettiars (a community of Tamil merchants) who are spread over two cities and 73 villages. Beyond the iconic Rajah’s Palace, what makes the charm of the towns and villages of Chettinad is perhaps the beauty of an overall village landscape created by the harmony of architectural elements and urban planning. Streets in grid Pattern, the perfect alignment of houses against street axis, slope of tiled roof and height of the buildings…. Even if the façades of the mansions bear witness of personal extravaganza of rich Chettiars families, the Chettinad villages stand out with their remarkable unity in architectural style that gives unique cultural heritage identity to the Region.
Places of Interest in the Saratha Vilas’ Vicinity
Kanadukathan is the heart of the current tourism trail in Chettinad. The Raja’s Palace is still considered as the icon of the region. The village is very unique with its large streets comprised of regular urban planning, ensembles of palatial architecture. Three of the Chettiar mansions are open to visitors.
Kothamangalam, where Saratha Vilas is, is a peaceful village located at 5 km from Kanadukathan. The village remains a living place where a number of unique architectural ensembles still exist displaying the splendor of the palatial facades and the typical alignment of their high compound walls marked by series of important entrance porches
Athangudi is known for its decorative cement-tile factories. The production inspired by the 1920s’ Maastricht process, started in Chettinad after the great depression of 1929. Different workshops propose demonstrations of their art. The Lakshmi Palace is one of the most impressive Chettinad mansions and is open to the public.
The southern areas of Rayavaram comprises an impressive number of large mansions. Three large streets lined by a variety of styles of architecture from Indo-Sarasenic to Art-Deco. Many mansions have been embellished by wooden structures and balconies on the facade providing the owner a dominant position from the street.
Karaikkudi is the economic heart of Chettinad. The core area of the town is comprised of the main bazaar built on a random pattern, while the other Chettiar areas were built on an iron grid pattern. Antique market street starts from the bazaar.
Pallathur is an important Chettiar settlement of about 12,000 inhabitants, 5 km from Kanadukathan. Its regular north/south urban grid pattern was established by the community at its zenith by the end of 19th century. An interesting heritage walk is recommended.
Crafts & Markets
Ayannar is the Tamil God “of everything “: rain maker, god of children, cattle, villages, earth, nature and villagers. He is present in rural areas. His abodes are not necessarily temples but outdoor shrines that are filled with terra-cotta offerings. The season of offerings is between April and September and the ritual lasts usually 3 days.
Antique Dravidian Temples
The most interesting site to be visited in Tirumayam is the rock cut temple at the bottom of the hill. The Vishnu Temple, or Satyamurthy was excavated by the Palava from 731 to 796 CE. It comprises an outstanding high-relief of Vishnu lying on the primary seas.
Kundrakudi is a small village that houses Murugan temple at the top of a rock. However, the most interesting part is located at its bottom with a series of Siva rock cut temples from the 8th Century. There are different chapels dedicated to different deities such as Shiva, Parvathi or Ganesh. The most impressive one comprises an interesting series of polychrome high reliefs of Lord Vishnu, Garuda.
Chettinad is a region where a strong culture has been preserved by the Chettiar community. The community is organized around 9 clan temples. Each member of the Chettiar community belongs to a clan and each clan has its own temple run by its own committee, Illayathakudi, Illupaikudi, Iraniyur, Mattur, Nemam, Pillaiyarpatti, Soraikudi, Vairavanpatti, Velankudi.
Day tours from Saratha Vilas
Chettinad today is a peaceful place to stay and visitors will appreciate the opportunity to discover some of the Tamil Nadu’s most impressive sites which are dotted around the region. Daily tours can be organized from Kothamangalam, visiting temples cities such as Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Thanjavur and Narthamalai, which are within 90/100 km of the village. Visitors can certainly extend their stay in the region for a range of different, unique experiences of Tamil Nadu.
The temple of Meenakshi Amman, a masterpiece of 17th century Dravidian architecture, is a must see when visiting South India. Scheduling a day trip from Saratha Vilas is a good idea that avoids having to spend too much time in Madurai which has become a very active city.
Sri Ranganathaswami temple in Tiruchirapalli, Srirangam, is the largest living Hindu temple. This temple, which has the dimensions of a city, has seven walls and covers an area of 63 hectares.
The Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur, Great Living Chola Temple, is only 1 and half hour drive from Saratha Vilas. It was built during the Chola Kingdom (11th- and 12th-century), expressing the brilliant testimony of the Chola Empire with outstanding architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.
Much less known, but an extremely beautiful site, the Vijayalaya Choleeswaram temple in Narthamalai is the first temple built by the Chola. It sits on a hill and is only accessible on foot. It’s a beautiful walk that also allows you to discover the rural landscapes of Tamil Nadu.