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Home >> Interactive Layout >> Tamil Nadu >> Merchant’s House - Chettinad


Chettinad DoorMerchants House from Chettinad, Tamilnadu

The late 19th century merchant’s house at DakshinaChitra is representative of the ancestral homes of the Nattukottai Chettiar community in Tamil Nadu. Chettiar houses are found today in seventy six villages located in Pudukottai, Pasumpom Muthuramalingam and Sivaganga districts. The Nattukottai Chettiar traders followed the expansion of the British Empire into Southeast Asia for their business. They brought back Burmese teak and European tiles for their mansions, as well as the inspiration from colonial and palace architecture. They also incorporated the wealth of wood sculpting and craftsmanship from local craftsmen in their homes.

The exterior façade of the house at DakshinaChitra is a replication of a common façade of smaller Nattukottai Chettiar merchant houses from 1850 through the 19th century; the outside columned verandah of Burmese teak are a reconstruction from a house in the village of Aryakudi.

The basic floor plan of a Chettinad house consists of an outside verandah (thinnai) for guests, with a room for conducting business on one or both ends; an interior courtyard to be used in ceremonies, with a raised seating area at one or both ends; a series of small double rooms opening off the main courtyard, for storage, prayer and sleeping and a small courtyard behind for cooking and for the women to socialize.

Chettinad HouseThe Chettinad houses were originally single-storeyed buildings made of sundried brick of mud and bamboo and thatch. They evolved to become tile-roofed with a small two-storeyed tower at both ends of the front elevation, similar to the house at DakshinaChitra. They later expanded vertically into two-storeyed structures, and horizontally through the addition of numerous halls and courtyards that could accommodate guests at marriages and other ceremonies.

It was not unusual for three generations to live together in one house. The Chettinad houses accommodate up to four generations before separate houses are built by individual sons. Each of the small rooms off the main courtyard is the property of one married son in the patriarchal lineage of the ancestral builder of the home. It is the only part of the house, besides a section of the kitchen, to which a separate ownership can be attributed. Even today, men and women are segregated in a Chettinad house: the men occupy the outer verandah and front room; and the women occupy the kitchen courtyard and work around the main courtyard.

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 Tamil Nadu Houses
Agriculturists House
Potters House
Mud Houses
Ayyanar Shrine
Weavers House
Brahmin House
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