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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Everything You Want to Know About Athangudi Tiles (Chettinad Tiles)

Athangudi tiles are ecofriendly handmade floor tiles , named after Athangudi, the village where they originated and are made. Athangudi is a manufacturing place located in the Chettinad Area of Tamil Nadu. Athangudi tiles also known by the names such as ‘Chettinad tiles’, Karaikudi tiles’, portrays an incredible and classic expression of the legacy Of Chettinad. These tiles are used in the Chettinad area for more than 100 years. Many families in the village are involved in the tile making and they depend on this craft for their livelihood. This traditional craft has been passed over generation from older to younger hands.


Table of Contents


Patterned Athangudi Tiles in Verandah
Patterned Athangudi Tiles in Verandah

The History


Most of the designs are inspired from the Victorian tiles in United Kingdom. S. Gomathy of Kipling & Co. Arts recalled how the tiles were first attempted in Chettinad. “Originally tiles from Germany, England and Italy made their way into affluent homes, but when the tiles aged with wear and tear, fixing them again was cumbersome. That was when the enterprising people of the area learnt the art of tile-making and having a trademark of their own in Athangudi.” (Taken from the “Aura of Athangudi tiles” Article in Hindu Newspaper). The tile processed was actually a blend of east and west. During the earlier days of their production, these tiles were preferred more by the rich since it was a newer technology in those days and was a bit expensive to afford.


Raw Materials for Athangudi Tiles


Athangudi Tiles are manufactured from locally available materials such as river sand, cement and naturally occurring oxides, hence very sustainable. Originally, lime was used for making Athangudi Tiles. The following are the ingredients used for the making of Athangudi Tiles:

  1. White Cement

  2. Grey Cement ( around 175 tiles can be made with one bag of cement)

  3. Sand (around 300 sq. ft. of tiles can be made out of 1 tractor load of sand)

  4. Colouring Oxide

  5. Tank Water


Image of Plain Athangudi Tiles
Image of Plain Athangudi Tiles

Different colours are available in the market and generally the brand used is Nerolac Oxide. Nowadays, the imported colour oxides are also used. The colours which are usually bought are,

  • blue oxide at Rs. 50 / kg

  • light green oxide at Rs. 50 / kg

  • red oxide at Rs. 40 / kg

  • black oxide at Rs 35 / kg

  • yellow oxide at Rs 35 / kg

  • white cement at Rs 10 / kg


Athangudi Tile Colour Oxides
Athangudi Tile Colour Oxides

Moulds Involved in the Manufacture of Athangudi Tiles


Tools involved in the manufacture are:

  1. Plain glass sheet of 3mm thickness cut to required size. Traditional tile size is 8”x 8” in dimension.

  2. Die made of bronze (pithalai) to required design. These dies are made at a place called as Konapattu.

  3. Framework to hold the cement filling which forms into a tile. This frame is made of square sections and has 2 handles on opposite sides.


Framework to hold cement filling in Chettinad tile  making process.
Framework to hold cement filling in Chettinad tile making process.

Athangudi Tile Making Process


These tiles are hand-made, and there is no firing or use of electricity. It is made by a distinctive traditional process even though it can be produced through several mechanical processes and the mode of production is very interesting.


The proportion is very important in the tile making process since the wrong proportion can create cracks in the tiles. The experienced craftsman in the Chettinad region are well versed in the proportion for mixing different components to make perfect tiles. The different composition involved in the making process are as follows:


Proportion to obtain light colours is,

Proportion to obtain dark colours is,

Here is the step by step procedure involved in the Athangudi or Chettinad Tile Manufacture:


1. The above ingredients in required proportion are mixed and rubbed dried (20 times).


 The Mixing Of Ingedients In Athangudi Tile Manufacturing Process
The Mixing Of Ingredients In Athangudi Tile Manufacturing Process

2. The mixing is done only by hand and then is sieved and packed. Pure oxides are used for better results. To obtain darker shade of the colours, the mixture is used after 2 days.

3. Water is added to the mix and then stirred to obtain the required consistency.


4. The frame is dipped in water and is placed on the clean glass.


5. The die is also placed on the glass and care is taken so that fits well within the framework.


Die placed on glass surface in the framework.
Die placed on glass surface in the framework.

6. The above mixture of colour oxide is then poured into different compartments which takes the shape of the design of the die.


Mixture of colour oxide is poured into different compartments to take the shape of design of die.
Mixture of colour oxide is poured into different compartments to take the shape of design of die.

7. The die is carefully removed by a jerk without disturbing the wet oxides and dry cement and mud mixture in 1:3 ratio is sprinkled over it.


The colour oxides taken the design of die.
The colour oxides taken the design of die.

8. The frame is then packed with filling mixture of cement and sand in 1:3 ratio (water added).


Packing of frame with cement and sand in Chettinad Tile  making process.
Packing of frame with cement and sand in Chettinad Tile making process.

9. The frame is removed carefully leaving the mixture on the glass, which later forms the tile and kept to dry at room temperature.


10. Then the tile and the glass together are immersed in the water.


11. The curing is done in water for 24 hours. If the curing is done perfectly, the cracks developed will be minimal. Then they do the curing by keeping it in the shade and pouring water. The longer the curing the better it is.


The curing process of Athangudi Tiles.
The curing process of Athangudi Tiles.

12. After curing, the edges of the tiles are evened using broken Athangudi tiles.


13. The tiles are then dried for 7 days. Only 3 mm glass is preferred as thicker glasses do not allow the tile to dry evenly.


14. The tiles are removed from the glass and are stacked like sandwiches with the newspaper in between the glossy surfaces.


Chettinad Tiles arranged in stacks
Chettinad Tiles arranged in stacks

15. It takes 9 days to make a batch of tiles.


While estimating the number of tiles to be ordered, for every 100 sq. ft., 5-15% wastage is calculated. But these til