Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The magnificient and rich Athangudi mansion

Alert : A  long photo post.

After bypassing interesting indicators like Chettinad mansion, Visalam ( mansions converted into boutique hotels) we were on our way to Athangudi to see the making of Athangudi tiles.

We got into the lane that had many boards of  Athangudi tile making....we drove past them not knowing which one to stop by....but finally the husband's eyes fell on an antique wood shop selling furniture. When we entered the  bylane to enquire about the furniture display, the person said it will take a while for the person to come and we could go around the "Athangudi periya veedu" ( Big Mansion) meanwhile pointing to a house exactly to whose side we stood.

The entrance was on the main road. Till then I did'nt realize we crossed past a mansion called 'Periya veedu' of Athangudi...yes, the exteriors of the building looked so worn out and the elevation was like any other house that I saw in the region .  I did'nt realize that  it is the celebrated Athangudi mansion which has acted in many Bollywood and Kollywood movies. 

We then paid an entry fee of 50 per head to the house keeper and when once past the steps of the entrance, the magnificience and splendour unfolded door after door. After a tour of the house, I came out with neck pain and jaw pain....yes folks, such a beautiful mansion, so well maintained interiors with lovely ceilings and artistic walls that I was open mouthed through out and craning my neck to see the high ceilinged mansion. My co-visitors at the place were foreigners who were all along looking awestruck too...at every place, they said "beautiful" and clicked pictures even of the "attukal" and " ammikal" ( traditional stone grinders) in the kitchen side. 

Athangudi mansion like the rest of the 11,000 mansions in this region was built with materials sourced from South east Asia and other european countries where the chettiars went for occupation. The house is built with Italian marbles, Japanese tiles, Belgium mirrors, Burma teak columns and ceilings and the walls which were built in 1929 have remain untouched ( not even painted). The buildings are built with native architectural science and vastu shastra which is more about allowing light and air inside the house. The walls were built with bricks and  lime stone mixture ( santhu kalavai)  This mixture is made of limestone powder, kadukkai podi ( gall nut or haritiki in hindi), egg's white  ( such satin finish on the walls). and karupatti ( palm jaggery)  and a little padaneer( unfermented palm tree sap),  Such constructions provide strength and longevity to the building and these mansions are testimony to that. Here i must also mention that i had written long back how my husband's grandparents home in Lalgudi was also built with such mixture on walls. Instead of egg shells, sea shells were used for the sheen.

Rest, I will leave unworded...this will be a photo post from here on,I am not even collaging the pictures, it will rob the beauty of the place and would prefer if you clicked on  the pics to feel the grandeur. I have sequenced it the way i saw the house from entrance to exit

 The  main entrance door from the narrow  road

                             The lobby between the  path leading from entrance  to the steps of thinnai called "Mogappu"
 The long thinnai (seating area)  on either  sides ( left and right below

                          The man who built the house in 1929...such a simple man but such grand taste

 The belgium mirror and japanese tile encrusted Burma teak door leads to the huge living room below

                                The wooden engraved ceiling above and the Italian  tiled chess board patterned flooring below. The gold enamel paint over the wood has never been retouched and the gloss and sheen is of the original paint.
From this room the below door leads to another huge hall

around which rooms are built and the high ceiling is roof to  the second floor too

these pillared corridors on first floor have succh beautiful ceilings where japanese tiles are framed

and the windows have beautiful paintings from Indian mythology

                    The engraved details on the pillars holding the ceiling
                                                   a close up of the japanese tiles

and the above room leads to a place with open courtyard around which again more rooms are built..Apart from sunlight and air, when it rains, the place is designed for harvesting water

one of the passage from the above room leads to this huge dining hall...notice the famous chettinad stained glass windows below and don't miss the gloss of the walls due to egg whites.

 One of my favorites in this mansion is the native wooden rafter roofing of the dining hall.  The slats sit snugly on the rafter grooves like a jigsaw puzzle. The symmetry, design and precision ...what amazing native architectural skill!!

                        A side door from the dining hall leads to an open path way which has a corridor like below
                        The grinding stones are placed to the left side while the right side is the kitchen...
                   As I exit, i realized the house extends even beyond the car on the right side..the servant quarter etc.  Glad i saw this house because the rest of the celebrated mansions like Kanadakuthan mansion requires permission from the owner mutthiah chettiar, the chettinad mansion has been converted into a boutique hotel and the Karaikudi mansion ( aayiram jannal veedu" has occupantsand so we have no free access.

The caretaker of this mansion said, this house now belongs to four families and they are now scattered all around and they come here for weddings and other functions. Most of the rooms are locked and the house is maintained with the entrance fee collected. It indeed is an white elephant to maintain such property.


  1. Breathtaking. That it is maintained so impeccably is a marvel.

    Interesting that the walls are "sweet", "Non vegetarian" and "Intoxicating" :):):)

    You really should give up everything else you do and become a travel writer .

    1. yes :) but the walls are eggitarian and no not intoxicating because they are not fermented.

      Travel writer?! llike i said before, i take your comments seriously:) so coming from a great travel writer and a globe trotter, this is a huge honor? thanks much.