Mary Ann Issac
Shop till you drop in Chettinad
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Chettinad is a shopaholic's dream come true. There is something for everyone.
Go antiquing in Karaikudi!
Karaikudi town has a few shops that sell ornate door frames and other carved woodwork, all of which were part of the erstwhile Chettinad mansions.
The tiny lane called Muneeswaran Koil Road are lined with shops selling antiques salvaged from Chettiar homes that were broken down, or the excesses from Chettiar families.
All the shops on this lane have similar yet different things, so it is advisable to walk around all the stores and get an idea of what is on offer to get a good deal. The prices are decided on the spot on seeing the customer, so BARGAIN!
This is a great place to shop for your homes if you like having a piece of history be a part of your everyday.
There are brass deities over half a century old, Burma teak pillars, colourful enamel coated tin utensils and cutlery imported from England, Sweden, and the former Czechoslovakia.
Brass was the metal of choice to make utensils, and other household items, and it can be seen in the slew of trays, cutlery, lunch boxes, milk cans, and tumblers, that fill the shelves of the shops.
Japanese tiles dismantled from the walls of Chettiar homes are sold for Rs.500/piece.
There is a wide selection of Tanjore paintings, and some beautiful crystal mirrors from Belgium. Belgian glass chandeliers of different sizes hang from the ceiling.
Intricately carved Burma teak swings, and carved wooden wall hangings, teak cupboards, beds, and bar cabinets, all crammed in to tiny shops.
Burmese lacquer bowls, and vibrant cast iron pots and pans from England.
Most of the utensils, both imported and locally made were part of the extensive dowries of Chettiar brides, which were later sold to dealers because they were in abundance at their homes.
Check out my detailed guide to Chettinad!
Check out my guide to the food of Chettinad!
Check out my detailed guides to other parts of Tamil Nadu!
Shop for colourful Chettinad tiles at the Athangudi Tile factory
The beautiful Athangudi tiles are used extensively in the homes of Chettinad, and now all over India. (The Bangalore Palace features some colourful tiles from Chettinad)
Artisans are available at the factory daily to demonstrate the making of these intricately designed tiles; they even let you join in the process!
They expect a tip of Rs.100 after the demonstration, so come ready with change!
You can buy tiles and get them shipped home. Each tile weighs up to1.5 kg, so they are meant to be used on the wall; only as floor tiles. They cost Rs. 50 each, but when ordering in bulk you can negotiate down to Rs.40. They ship the tiles nationwide!
Buy Chettinad Sarees straight from the weaver
The typical Chettinad sarees use bright colours like red, yellow, orange, and green, in their signature checked or striped designs. The Sri Mahalakshmi Handloom weaving centre in Kanadukathan is open for visitors to view the weaving process of their beautiful sarees. They have a selection of handwoven silk and cotton sarees, readymade bed sheets, cushion covers, and tunics for sale. Prices start at Rs.800 for a saree! You can ask for a better price if you are buying more than one.