The Chettinad region is fascinating — legend has it that the Chettiars were pivotal in the Chola Empire, dominating coastal business as gem dealers, salt merchants and chandlers.
However, the king apparently abducted a Chettiar girl for his wife and in retaliation the whole community migrated to the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. They initially settled in four villages about 25 km west of Karaikudi which eventually expanded to 96.
The community continued trading with southeast Asian countries and became wealthy from that trade. With their wealth they built enormous mansions but, as the countries which they were trading secured independence, their businesses were affected and the number of villages shrank as many of the Chettiars moved away. They left behind them the huge mansions that you can now see in the villages. Today you may visit a few of them including Chettinadu Palace, where you can marvel at the opulence and quality of the workmanship — Burma teak pillars, brightly colored floor tiles, jaggery and eggshell plastered walls.
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