The Chettiars belong to a lineage of wealthy traders and financiers who
made their fortunes by extending their business to the whole of
Southeast Asia, particularly during the 19th century when they were at
the peak of their economic power. As a result of their travelling, the
Chettiars integrated diverse influences into their traditions which
contributed to their uniqueness. Their villages were constructed
as per precise and sophisticated rules of urban planning, represented
namely by orthogonal streets and specific water management system, which
are also directly linked to the Tamil tradition with rectangular plots
and houses with an inner courtyard.
The economic pressure and land speculation in the big cities of Tamil
Nadu have eliminated almost all the traditional houses in the
State. Chettinad is the only remaining site which bears testimony
to the traditional Tamil architecture and urban planning.