Want to learn more about Chettinad houses and temples ah... These houses are a real piece of Workmanship and a feast to your eyes. Massive structures to visit that cover an appro.. land area of about 25,000 sq. feet. Amazing to hear that, right ! Have anyone of you ever thought of measuring the Carpet area of your house in Chettinad, try it this time when you get a chance to visit there.
These houses in Chettinad happened to be built say about 100yrs back and still many stand erect. Isn't that a astonishing fact, but if not maintained or looked after, will be found only in sites like these or in the " Book of Facts."
In those days you won't believe the houses were made of Lime, Sand and Egg Yoke. Now the most interesting fact is that, to built these houses the eggs were imported from Rangoon (Burma). Doesn't that sound interesting to hear ? Also the wood used for construction i.e. Teak was all imported from Burma.
Now coming to the import of these Teak wood, there is a fascinating story of how they were imported from there. In those days the Roadway was not so developed and from Burma to Chettinad is quite a long distance to travel. So these wood logs were tied on to the Merchant Ships coming to India and made to float to their destination. On reaching the shore, Chettinad being not far from the seashore, it was easy for them to transport these lumbers to the respective villages.
Chettinad houses are signs of successful joint families that existed in olden days. Each house in Chettinad is made of Mugappu, Valavu, Irandankatu, Moonakatu, Thotham. Now as you walk through a Chettinad Vidu you will first find Mugappu, the entrance to the house, I think we could call it the Reception. Then comes the Valavu, the living area of the house. In the Valavu generally there are four Platforms that are called as Pattalai, each at four corners of the Valavu. These Pattalai act as the living halls of each family. Along with the Pattallai, Valavu is made up of numerous Irattai Vidu. These Irattai Vidu are rooms used by each family to keep their belongings and etc. Irattaividu got its name so because Irattai in Tamil means Two and Vidu means House and as its name means it is made of two rooms connected by a single door. Then as you walk through the Valavu using the Nadai (Corridor) you will reach Irandankatu. Irandankatu is used for dining purpose and have store rooms in them for storing all kitchenware. Further down if you walk you will find yourself in a typical Chettinad kitchen. This region of the house is called as Moonakatu. All the cooking in the house is done here. And walking a little more will lead you to the Garden known as Thotham in tamil. Thotham is essentially used for little bit of gardening, tying the cow in the house and then for Bathing. Now i forgot to tell you earlier that each house in Chettinad in the olden days had enough cows to supply milk to their need. And yes each house in Chettinad also had, provision for parking their vehicles i.e. it could be a car, or a horse chariot, etc. depending upon the status of the family.
Now defining the Chettinad House sounds real easy but it is not so when you happen to visit it. Have you ever thought of counting the number of rooms in your house in Chettinad, or have you visited every part of your house in Chettinad ? Try these out when you get time and find yourself in your house in Chettinad.
Apart from the ground floor the Chettinad houses also have a first floor to add to its massive construction. These first floors are also made of rooms meant for Storage of things, so from this you could imagine how much would have our ancestors had to store. A big Chettinad house consist of atleast 60 to 70 rooms. Isn't that an interesting fact to look at ?
Now I think that's a lot on Chettinad houses. But what are we going to do to conserve these houses, safe guard them. These houses now a days are slowly vanishing due to lack of maintenance and I suppose we should do something to keep our ancestral property in existence. Or we will have to consider ourselves lucky to have atleast seen such a massive house because there may be nun to show your Kids apart from few CDs which may contain a glimpse of what our houses looked like.
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