From roads lined with huge mansions to a position as a non-vegetarian food-lover’s paradise, Karaikudi can surprise and charm the visitor at every turn.
As with any place in the state of Tamil Nadu, there are several temples in the vicinity of Karaikudi as well. Within the town lie seven temples at Illayathangudi which are frequented by residents of the nine villages.
Lord Venkatachalapthi presides over the temple of Then Tirupati in Ariyakudi as its deity. Located about five kilometres from Karaikudi, the temple is built with a 7-tiered Rajagopuram.People believe that worshipping at this temple is equivalent to praying at Tirumala.
About seven kilometres from Karaikudi is the Kandanur Shiva temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort. This temple is of great significance for the people of the area and is woven into their lives. It is a part of all celebrations and milestone events – wedding processions start from here, those who leave the village pay their respects before leaving and those who return from outside, drop in first to pay their obeisance here.
Only a few places in the state house the 108 Vinayakars –the Karaikudi temple is one such. The most intriguing temple in the area though is the Pillayarpatti Temple, an ancient rock-cut temple dedicated to Lord Vinayaga, the God of Wisdom.
The history handbook
A few kilometres from Karaikudi lies a calm village with bright orange streets lined by huge, ornate mansions in colours of cool turquoise, vivid yellow and blinding white. These are historic Chettiar mansions built in the early part of the 20th century by wealthy merchant families and are responsible for having put Kanadukathan on the tourist map. From furniture made with cedar from Sri Lanka to tabletops of Italian marble, these mansions have it all. A sleepy afternoon cycling around the town exploring these mansions is highly recommended.
The Chettiar community travelled far and wide - and along with bringing back treasures as crafted goods and raw materials, they encouraged the local craftspeople of Athangudi to set up tile factories. About 150 years later, Athangudi remains famous for its beautiful handmade tiles. A visit to the village to watch the tilemakers at work is a unique experience.
A magnificent edifice, the Chettinad Palace is a striking example of the power and influence enjoyed by these families. The Chettinad Museum is another heritage home that today houses a museum that showcases jewellery, pottery, utensils, grain bars and other items that reflect how the Chettinad people lived life.
The Aayiram Jannal Veedu is another famous landmark. Translating to the ‘House with a Thousand Windows, as the name implies this mansion has 25 palatial rooms with 1000 windows.
Food and shopping fantasies
But what makes Karaikudi truly famous is its distinctive Chettinad cuisine. Known for its complex flavours and the richness of freshly ground spices, whether it is a spicy Chicken Chettinad or a simple Urulai (potato) Roast, the food here will leave everyone wanting more. And the Paal Payasam, made with rice, nuts and coconut is as much a must-have item as any of the savoury food on offer. Also, the town is famous for ‘Kandaangi Sarees’ - one among the oldest weaves of the state.
By Air - Madurai at a distance of 60 kilometres, is the nearest airport.
By Rail - Karaikudi has its own railway station connected to most cities and towns.
By Road - Karaikudi is well connected by state transport and one can hire or rent a car to reach Karaikudi by road.
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