Karaikudi is part of the area commonly referred to as “Chettinad”. Karaikudi is declared a heritage town on account of the palatial houses or havelis built with limestone called karai veedu. The flat plains are sparsely populated, their silence osmotic and the colour of the earth a misleading rich shade for the semi arid soil.
The town derives its name from the thorny plant Karai referred in ancient literature as Kareekudi, which in modern times became Karaikudi. The town is believed to have been formed during the 1800s. Karaikudi and surrounding areas are generally referred as “Chettinadu”.
The grand mansions of astonishing proportions are open to the public. They begin in one grid–like street to end in another and are sometimes given two postal addresses. What never ceases to fascinate enthusiasts of architecture and aesthetics is the symmetry. Their execution is stunning and functional at the same time stunning and functional. The invariably pearl white walls are hand plastered with a mixture of powdered egg and sea shells, lime and gallnut giving them a subtle sheen that simply cannot be matched by any modern technique. Terracotta roofs, pillars of polished granite & teak and extravagant facades and rooms emanating from a series of open-to-the-sky courtyards come together in a highly refined minimalism that extends from the smallest kitchen utensil to the heaviest door. Some of the havelis have been given on lease to hotel chains and have been converted into hotels.
Of all the unique aspects of Chettinad, a famous ambassador of this region has been its cuisine. Chettinad cuisine is synonymous with spicy fare even to the Indian palate and has been influenced by the nature of the region – which is a dry, arid and hot. At the same time, the Chettiars trace their history to a life near the coastline. So their cuisine also has elements like prawns and crabs.
The freshly ground spices – dried and pounded with pestles – provide an earthy flavour. This reflects the techniques used in the dry and arid region to preserve vegetables for the off season.
Travel to this exquisite part of India. Let us open the doors to the mansions for you. We will teach you how to cook a robust Chettinad Chicken. We will take you to a life of a different era.
- “Karaikudi was truly the highlight of our stay. The Visalam managers and staff were over the top in hospitality. They made you feel like family who had come for the Pongal Festival and included us not only in their celebration, but let us visit their family home nearby and other family member’s homes to see what they were doing for the festival. The personalized local meal prepared by the young chef just for us was again a rare treat. Learning about Chetting culture was a pleasure with such enthusiastic people there.” – Jan & Doug McGeorge, USA
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