Chettinad Doorway Late 19th Century, Tamil Nadu, South India

This intricately carved doorway exemplifies the architectural style prevalent in South Indian domestic structures from the 19th to the early 20th centuries. It showcases the bespoke architectural traditions of Chettinad, a region inhabited by the Nattukottai Nagarthar Chettiars.

The Chettiars were a community of financiers and traders. They were among early Indian migrants who travelled to parts of Southeast Asian such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.

Using this wealth generated from their businesses, the Chettiars constructed palatial mansions in their ancestral villages, with grandly carved timber entrances, along with pillars and ceilings made from Burmese and Indian teak wood.

The iconography of this Chettinad doorway is testimony to the influence of Nayaka religious art and architecture on the Chettinad region and its artisans. For instance, the carvings on the doorframe are in close resemblance to mural paintings of the Nayaka palaces. The doorway bears an impressive total of 5000 carved figures, with goddess Gajalakshmi occupying a central position in the doorframe. The elaborate carvings of mythic motifs not only added aesthetic beauty but also invoked divine power and provided protection for the owner and their family.

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Chettinad Doorway Late 19th Century, Tamil Nadu, South India IHC
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