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  • Naseef T. P

Athangudi Palace : The Chettinad Architecture Marvel


The Nattukottai Chettiars were traders since the time of the Chola Empire in the 12th century and were the trading and banking group in South India. The region comprising the Sivaganga and Pudukottai districts of Tamil Nadu is known as 'Chettinad'. They dealt in a wide variety of items, such as teak, silk, and spices, as far afield as Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and Indonesia. This group dominated regional trade finance in Southeast Asia during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The huge profits made were poured back into the Chettinad district of Tamil Nadu. Different families competed with each other to build the biggest mansions ever, and all extended families lived under the same roof. So, mansions to accommodate several nuclear families were built with dozens of bedrooms and large communal dining halls.


Exterior view of Athangudi Palace
Exterior view of Athangudi Palace

Exterior view of Athangudi Palace
Exterior view of Athangudi Palace

Some of the richest mansions in the Chettinad region are located in Karaikudi, Kanadukathan, Athangudi , and Pallathur. Athangudi Palace in Athangudi village is an extravagant palace in Chettinad and a fine example of Chettinad architecture. This big mansion in Athangudi is one of the best preserved houses open to the public.


Exterior detail of Athangudi Palace
Exterior detail of Athangudi Palace

Entrance of Athangudi Palace
Entrance of Athangudi Palace

A palace with more than 500 ornate stained glass windows and 64 large rooms, tiles imported from Italy, colored glasses imported from Belgium, huge wooden doors and windows with intricate carvings, and colorful works of art. This architectural wonder is a must-see.



The entrance is decorated with rows of granite pillars, black and white glossy Italian marble on the floor.
The entrance is decorated with rows of granite pillars, black and white glossy Italian marble on the floor.

I visited here on a Sunday. There wasn't much traffic. The view from the outside is not that beautiful, but once you get inside, you can see its architectural beauty. A beautiful combination of Indo-European architecture can be seen here.



The entrance is decorated with rows of granite pillars
The entrance is decorated with rows of granite pillars

As you enter through the entrance, it is decorated with rows of granite pillars, black and white glossy Italian marble on the floor, and black and white frames on the walls where two people who appear to be the owners are looking at us in the grandeur of their living space.


Interior of Athangudi Palace
Interior of Athangudi Palace

The main entrance, made of Burmese teak wood with intricate carvings that amaze everyone, is one of the main attractions here. When entering through the main door, we reach the foyer or living room. When we stand here, we feel like we are standing in some magical world. Similarly, the visitors get a small idea about the journeys made by the Chettiars and the architectural elements of different countries that influenced them. A procession of colors can be felt there. Lights add to the beauty of the ceiling. The magnificent works of art here are the carvings. Paintings help to understand the life and culture of the Chettiars during their heyday. Belgian glass windows create a kaleidoscope of colors.


Interior of Athangudi Palace
Interior of Athangudi Palace

Open Courtyard of Athangudi Palace
Open Courtyard of Athangudi Palace

All the mansions in the Chettinad region used to have open courtyards. These opulent open courtyards ensure daylight and cross-ventilation, and the carvings on the brown pillars here, made of Burma teak, are amazing. On both sides of the tiled courtyard are arched frames; windows can be seen; and the painted panels and paintings above them are beautiful. From here, we went straight to the dining room, which is very huge. The dining room of this palace is more than 50 feet long.


Dining hall of the palace
Dining hall of the palace

One end opens to the living room, and the other end leads to the courtyard. The colored The painted window panes on the smooth egg plaster walls of the dining hall, which open one end to the reception room and the other to the courtyard, give a celebration of colors. Painted Burma teak timber columns make the room more colorful.


Intricate carvings in the palace
Intricate carvings in the palace

Interior  painting details in the palace
Interior painting details in the palace

Carvings in the palace
Column capital carving in Athangudi Palace

We could not see the entire kitchen area, as visitors were not allowed in the kitchen area. We could only spend a short time in this magical palace. I stepped down from that deserted palace, deciding to come here once again... I could see birds flying to mate in the blue sky...


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