CGH Earth’s Visalam, a passionately-restored 19th century palatial home, is ideal for those who want to experience a period-style milieu. Located in the Kanadukathan village of Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu, this home is built with features that encapsulate the cultural facets of Chettinad. The mansion showcases the life and times of the wealthy trading community of Chettiars and was built with traditional grandeur by KVAL Ramanathan Chettiar for his eldest daughter, Visalakshi, over a century ago.
At Visalam, every little detail of the past is carefully preserved. You’ll be welcomed by its ornate doorways, marble platforms, woodworked ceilings and patterned Athangudi-tiled floors. Visalam’s rooms are large in size with high ceilings and adorned with period-style furniture that’s flawlessly crafted from the finest Burma teak. Walk a few steps around the mansion, and it begins to feel like a place that revels in its stillness. Today, Visalam is a celebrated residence of character that transports you into a period bygone. Thanks to many skilled and specialized artisans of the Chettinad region like tile-makers, weavers, carpenters, stone workers – who with their talent and knowledge have helped restore the glory of this 100-year old mansion.
Chettinad cuisine’s unique character comes from its blend of south-east Asian spices and Indian ingredients. On your visit, don’t miss the famed Chettinad Thali. At Visalam, the ritual of cooking is nothing less than a celebration. The food is cooked by the local chefs in century-old brass vessels that were originally bought to be given away as dowry to the groom’s household. Guests can partake in the interactive cooking demonstration conducted by the expert Aachi (grandmother) in Visalam’s kitchen during their stay, and even pick up culinary secrets that lie behind this famed South Indian cuisine.
Chettinad regales the world with its brilliant architecture. Owe it to the fact that it is home to numerous disintegrating mansions that were built many decades ago by prosperous merchants, who generally lived overseas, but built in their home area as a sign of their affluence. While the mansions are one facet of the town’s architecture, the other is its temples.
Visalam’s earthy lanes are lined with temples that embody the majestic architecture of the era of the Chola kings. Most notably, the ancient 1800-year old Pallayiar Patti temple is a short ride away. The effort that’s gone into creating these relics is conspicuous in the intricate carvings on pillars and colourful idols of Gods. What you’ll find interesting is, most of the village activities are centered around the temple.
Whether it’s the mansions or the temples, the best way to get familiar with them is by going on a cycle ride or hitching a ride on a bullock cart. So as you wander through the town, you’ll find yourself journeying back in time, through a heritage that’s in its full glory.
As you go about discovering, there are many stories you can be a part of, in Chettinad. You can also make some great buys and bargains on handicraft, jewellery, sculpture and woodwork, that are even today the cultural leitmotif of this dynamic merchant community.
Visalam is 85 km from Tiruchirapalli International Airport and 90 km from Madurai Airport. On that note, Visalam is not just a mansion of the past, but a story that one could blend in.