Chettinad has long been known for its rich cultural heritage and colourful history. Its stunning palatial mansions, beautiful well-planned towns, intricate craft forms, and flavourful food has been stuff of legends. Despite this rich cultural heritage the region has remained off the popular tourist circuits. The Chettinad Heritage and Cultural Festival is working to change that.
The four-day fiesta aims to promote local crafts, skills and art forms of the region and take it to a larger audience across the country. The idea, say the organisers, is not just to create awareness but also to generate tourism for the region, which is the only way to sustain its heritage. “We had mooted the idea of organising the festival to showcase the region's rich cultural heritage,” informs Mrs Meenakshi Meyyappan of The Bangala who has been leading conversations around the conservation of Chettinad’s heritage for years and had first conceived the idea of the festival with the Yacob George, the General Manager of The Bangala, a heritage hotel run by her family. “We felt that for this rich heritage to survive we need to generate economic activity in the Chettinadregion and that a cultural festival will bring about sustainable heritage tourism.” The idea was then given the shape of a four-day cultural event and a comprehensive list of cultural experiences was curated by Padma Shree awardee Leela Samson, who is also a Bharatanatyam artiste, writer and actress. The festival, scheduled from August 12-15, 2022, promises a host of experiences for the visitors.
Zee Zest brings to you a comprehensive list from Chettinad Heritage and Cultural Festival:
1. A walk through the mansions of Chettinad
Made by the Chettiars, the mansions of Chettinad stand testimony to the community’s wealth, and passion for art and architecture. These sprawling mansions showcase the financial and social prowess of the community and of the family they belong to: the grander the mansion the more respected the family. Since the Chettiars travelled across the world, their mansions reflect their exposure to western and eastern countries and are adorned with choicest of materials from all over the world — think Belgian glass, Burmese teak and Italian marble. In the many walks scheduled during the festival you can witness the architecture, which is a mélange of Eastern and Western styles and carry elements of all possible forms from art deco columns, to Victorian parapets, to Gothic domes to traditional courtyards, sprawling verandahs and Mangalore tiled roofs.
2. A trail of Chettinad’s ancient temples
Like all Tamil temples, the temples of Chettinad are not only popular for their spiritual value but also serve as keepers of the ancient Tamil culture. Colourful, multi-spired, small, big, or grand, these temples have stood for centuries and remain relevant even today in the region. At the Chettinad Heritage and Cultural Festival, you can participate in guided tours of local temples led by Dr Chithra Madhavan, along with musical inputs by Amritha Murali. While Dr Madhavan is a renowned writer and historian, Amritha Murali is a known violist and vocalist. The temple trail takes you to Jeyamkonda Soleeswarar Sivan Kovil, known for its 125-odd rare sculptures, Thiruvengadamudayan Perumal Thirukovil, known for its lofty seven-tier rajagopuram; the Ayyanar Trail meanwhile takes you to the unique roofless shrines in Urupatti, Arandangi, Kuthadivayal and Panjati.
3. Dance recitals and lessons in history
Music and dance performances, instrumental recitals and special lectures by historians, conservationists, and writers aim to draw attention to the cultural heritage of Chettinad and the need to celebrate it. You can attend Bharatnatyam and Carnatic music performances, flute recitals, talks on the architecture and heritage of Chettinad and lectures on the arts and crafts of the region by some of the most renowned artists and historians in the region. These talks and performances, organised inside scenic temple courtyards and historical mansions, promise to help you gain deeper understanding of the culture while keeping you engaged and entertained.
4. A peek into Chettinad cuisine
No cultural festival is complete without its cuisine and Chettinad is known the world over for its spicy, nuanced, and diverse food culture. The four-day festival promises luxurious lunches, delicious dinners and languorous breakfast. Hosted at some of the most beautiful properties in Chettinadu these showcase age-old family recipes, cooking styles and native ingredients preserved as family heirloom by the community. For those who love to cook, the Chettinad cooking demo and workshop at The Bangala is a highlight, for those who love to eat there is a temple dinner promising authentic temple cuisine and two elaborate dinners at the legendary V. VR. House, Kaanadukathan, PMA House, Kottaiyur, and The Bangala Karaikudi.
5. Saris, baskets, diamonds and more
Chettinad is a haven for art and craft lovers. Being deep in the heart of Tamilnadu the region has a rich tradition of handwoven saris in distinct checkered patterns and detailed borders. The region is also known for colourful cement tiles, beautiful antique utensils, art and teak furniture from old mansions, bell metal lamps, kottan baskets and diamond work. At the Chettinad Heritage and Cultural Festival, you not only have a chance to see these craft forms being made but also take some home from the exhibitions at the MS House. And while at it you can also sample, and take home, the famous Chettinad Palakaram, or fried snacks. These crunchy savoury chaklis and mixtures will remind you of Chettinad for weeks afterwards.