IN AND AROUND THE BANGALA
The Bangala is conveniently located in the heart of Karaikudi and offers excellent heritage walks covering some of the magnificent mansions around the area and some ancient temples. Two to three days can be easily spent wandering around the area, and one can make short trips to Pudukkottai, Athankudi, Kanadukanthan and Devakkottai.
The Bangala arranges local guides who can give you an insider's view of Chettinad.
Around Karaikudi there are at least a dozen easily-accessible villages that together host the region's architectural heritage, the Chettinad residences that have been built over the last 200 years. All villages have their own temples, which are worth seeing.
The Chettinad region and Karaikudi especially is a treasure trove of antiques and well-crafted hand-made products ranging from jewellery to furniture.
THE VILLAGE SHANDI
The quaint and rustic village shandi is the local market that rotates between the villages on a daily basis.
Ravi Varma lithos, Tanjore paintings, stained glass, Burmese lacquer ware, Swedish enamel, Austrian kerosene lamps, European lamp shades and old photographs are part of an enormous range of antiques that are slowly trickling into the market, making Karaikudi a major source of antiques in south india.
With a steady supply of seasoned Burma Teak from the old buildings and highly skilled carpenters who can copy colonial designs, Chettinad has become a major source of fine furniture, no veneer or plywood used.
One of the open secrets of Southern Tamil Nadu is that Karaikudi is the place to buy diamonds. Over many generations a Seth family has settled here and supplied the Chettiar community with fine stones and jewellery, earning a reputation for quality and trust that is rarely found in the cities.
Chettinad cottons are hand woven in bright colors and designs and are truly something to take home.
Athangudi tiles are ideal for hot climates. You can visit the workshops and even design your own tiles.
There are also a few places where you can see the local artisans at work, making the famous Chettinad tiles, weaving cotton sarees on handlooms, working with wood and silver smiths.
TRIPS OUTSIDE CHETTINAD
The location of The Bangala makes it an ideal hub to explore major tourist attractions of Tamil Nadu like Thanjavur, Madurai, Trichy and the island temple town of Rameswaram.
THANJAVUR (About 90 kms North, 2 hours by Road)
Thanjavur is one of the oldest cities in India. The capital of the Chola empire, Thanjavur is an important cultural centre, well known for the 11th century Brahadishwara Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.
MADURAI (About 90 kms West, 2 hours by Road)
Madurai is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Indian peninsula, with a cultural history that goes back 2500 years. The city is widely known as the Temple City and is famous for The Meenakshi-Sundareswar Temple.
TIRUCHIRAPALLI (About 90 kms North, 2 hours by Road)
Trichy or Tiruchirapalli is a city of great antiquity and has a number of historical monuments like the Rock Fort Temple on the shores of the River Cauvery and The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, the largest functioning Hindu temple complex in the world.
En route to Trichy, the Thirumaiyam fort is worth exploring. A slight detour will take you to Namana Samudram, an Ayyanar koil with hundreds of terracotta horses and elephants- a fascinating spectacle.
RAMESWARAM (About 130 kms South, 3 hours by Road)
Rameswaram is located on Pamban Island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 50 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. Together with Kashi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India for Hindus. According to legend, this is the place from where Lord Rama built Ram Setu (also known as Adam's Bridge) across the sea to Lanka to rescue his consort Sita from her abductor Ravana.
AVUDAIYAR KOIL (40 km East of Karaikudi)
Head towards the coast, via Pallathur and Aranthangi, for Avudaiyar Koil, a Shaivite temple with statues of Shiva and Shakti as a tribal couple, Bhairawan and Bhairavi, harking back to their pre-Hindu origins. The simplicity of the shrine stands in stark contrast to the detailed work on the statues and bas-reliefs.