The Handmade Tiles of Athangudi Palaces Of Chettiyars

That the Chettinad is more than a chicken delicacy of same name, became evident while I walked around marveling at the old charm of a 150 year old heritage mansion and a sudden moment of realization made me look down on the floor….it dawned on me that the floor was as old as the structure above! And it still shone colorfully bright, felt softly smooth and like a richly woven carpet, lent the air of aristocracy to the whole structure.

Athanagudi Palace Tiles

Athangudi Palace Tiles

I was roaming the corridors of an old Chettinad mansion with its floor covered in the age old Athangudi handmade tiles; bold and vibrant warm colors in floral and geometric patterns.

The Chettiyar community of Tamilnadu were traders with an appetite to increase their business to far off lands. They traveled by boats to foreign lands and amassed not only wealth but also imported products from Italy, China, Africa and more. They brought with them floor tiles to use in their palatial houses built with the newly acquired wealth.

The tiles however were difficult to maintain and repair owing to the distances from where those were acquired from. The locals soon developed a cottage industry and replicated the foreign design making their own hand-made tiles. The local flavor emerged in the use of traditional motifs and selection of colors.

With advent of vitrified tiles, the hand-made tiles which were once a style and status statement of the palaces of Athangudi are left with but a few patrons who still want to lend their homes a rustic ethnic charm. Now Athangudi village in Shivgagai, the Chettinad district of Tamilnadu, has become the hub of these hand-made tiles.

Sand, cement and red oxide are the chief ingredients of these tiles. A colored paste is poured in the design of metal frame mould placed on glass surface which is instrumental in imparting the sheen to these hand-made tiles. The workers pack this mould with clay sand cement and place the assembled tile in sun for three to four days for drying. It is then cured in water for another week and again placed in sun for final drying. The glass surface is removed to reveal a beautiful design on a sun dried clay tile.

Even though there is no oven baking involved, the tile colors and durability is enough to last a lifetime. The tiles however are bulkier and need skilled laborers for laying.

But with no palace or a sprawling bungalow to call a home, I had to leave those colorfully dark floral and geometrical patterned tiles as is. I fell in love with the patterns and had wanted to take one tile of each size to convert into some kind of functional home accessory but the weight of a single tile discouraged me.

The Bangalas lounge with Athangudi Palace tiles

The Bangala’s lounge with Athangudi Palace tiles

May be someday if and when I own a bungalow like this , those ethnic tiles will adorn my floor space too.

Good To Know:

1. The Athangudi Palace tiles cost Rs 32 per piece and border tiles for Rs 22. The labor cost is Rs 2o/sq ft. 

2. The tiles can be custom made and delivered with extra transportation charges. 

3. It takes about a month to custom design and transporting of the tiles.

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About shoma abhyankar

I like to believe that I am a creative person. I read, write, paint, sketch, rustle up some quick and some elaborate meals for friends and family, love chess, su-doku and scrabble, can hum an old Hindi song tentatively, always stand up for women rights, hate fake people, bugs, roaches, spiders and cigarette smokers!! I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Architecture in 1998. Soon after, I married an officer in Indian Air Force and have been on move since then. For a brief time of two years when we were posted in Pune, I worked as a junior architect in a firm. Being aware of frequent movement that we would have to live with, I chose to be a homemaker and concentrated on creating a warm and welcoming home for my family. But sitting at home without any creative activity was not my cup of tea. I learnt candle making and soon put up an exhibition at Poona Club when my daughter was barely a year old. I also enjoyed a short stint as a home-based entrepreneur, supplying chocolates and cakes on demand, while we were posted in Bareilly. With an inclination towards writing, I completed a diploma in ‘Creative Writing in English’ from Symbiosis College of Distance Learning, Pune. Then I discovered the blogosphere. Now I hope to not only travel and share my experiences with the world but also to pen a book someday....
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11 Responses to The Handmade Tiles of Athangudi Palaces Of Chettiyars

  1. Rashminotes says:

    Very nice; I did visit a boutique in Chennai where they retail these tiles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely. Would love to use these when I do up my house someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was really good to read about the works.

    Liked by 1 person

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