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Architecture (Chettinad palatial buildings)

Most of the Chettinad mansions are treasure troves that mirror the passion for art and craft in this Nagathar the mercantile community that had the reputation of establishing and running their business ventures from East India - especially Calcutta to South east countries during 19th and 20th century.. From birth to burial, the Nagarathars observed numerous ceremonies. All such functions were held and being held within their own premises as many of their palatial Chettinad buildings have Marriage Halls (Kalyana Kottagai) and Banquet Hall (Bhojan Hall). Like Personal Computers (PC) theirs is the only community which own personal Kalyana mandap and Personal Panthi kattu. The most important aspect of any discussion on Nagarathars Chettinad Architecture must appreciate that their vernacular architecture is an amalgam of Indigenoust and European style evolved over years and refined in a phased manner. The source of inspiration derived from out of Nagarathars connection with Trade, Travel, Temples, Tradition and Taste. (All these aspects will find a place in subsequent discussions). Such buildings, as presumed to be constructed only with bricks, mortar and wood, is in fact accomplished with sweat, frugality and piousness. The buildings constructed by them in a phased manner with the earnings made in FarEast countries on conclusion of one assignment - Kanakku (say for a period of three or five years as per the contract in writing between the owner Mothalali and his Agent-kootali). Buildings are divided into portions -Kattu . Most of the buildings have not less than two to three portions eg: first kattu second kattu and third kattu. The walls of Chettinad nagarathars buildings are embellished with Chettinad plaster whose other names are 1) White Vellai poochchu, 2) Egg plastering and 3)Muthu Poochchu. Such walls were coated with several layers comprising mixture of lime base, ground white seashells, liquid egg white, etc. The most important characteristic features of Chettinad Buildings are *1) Cluster Houses, *2) Mostly East West orientation, *3) High rise compound wall (front side), *4) Entrance Arch with stone steps, *5) Elevated plinth, *6) Tiled Portico, *7) Facade with stucco sculptures, *8) Verandah Thinnai(two Platforms), *9) Wooden Pillars on it, *10) High door frame with ornate wood work, *11) Double main door, *12) pattalai or pattasalai (smaller version of the thinnai- platforms), *13) Open Courtyard (Mutram Valavu), *14) Second /third courtyard/s, *15) Passage on all the four sides around the Mutram, is called Suththupathi, *16) Edges of the passages are lined with cut stone slabs known as vellaikkallu, *17) Stand on them are the stone pillars meant for supporting the roof, *18) Slanting clay - tiled roofs, *19) Square flat tiles floor of the mutram will have rectangle stone slabs on all the four corners to bear the brunt of the falling rain water, *20) Small single / double rooms on one side or either side of the passage (suththukkattu) length wise, *21) Kitchen on the last kattu, *22) Staircase on one or two or all the four corners, *23) Banquet Hall Bhojan Hall Panthi kattu on the side of the first kattu, *24) Floors laid with i) Italian marble Black and White, ii) Granite in some places, iii) Athangudi hand made tiles - Pookkallu,

*25) Japanese and Spanish tiles were both used for side walls and floor in such of those places where not treaded frequently, *26) Beams, pillars, brackets, capitals, frames all made of Burma teak, *27) All the mediums used in making columns viz, wood, stone, brick, and iron, *28) First floor facade is invariably adorned by colonnade made of stone, wood, and bricks, *29) Window niches and arches above are decorated with stucco work or paintings. *30) Designed for collecting / harvesting rain water (especially in courtyard (Mutram)).