Located in the Chettinad area of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Karaikudi is famous for the unique limestone houses and structures spread throughout the city. During the late 1800s, Karaikudi rose to prominence as a major financial center, and became the most prosperous city in the region. Today, Karaikudi is a small city of about 110,000, and is famous for its excellent cuisine, which features a wide number of spices, tastes and vegetarian ingredients. Additionally, as many Chettiars (the merchant castes who dominated Chettinad) emigrated overseas, Chettinadi cuisine features a number of outside ingredients, including Burmese sticky rice.
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Dine with a prominent Chettinad family and learn about their family history; gain insights into the extensive trade and international exchange that formed the basis of the Chettiar fortune.
Have lunch at the Bangala Hotel, and afterwards take a cooking class using ingredients grown on-site. Some common dishes that you may learn to make include pepper chicken, seer fish curry, and raita, or cool, refreshing yogurt laced with sweet pomegranate seeds. Afterwards, complete your cooking lesson by harvesting the plates used – shiny, uniform banana leaves – which are also grown here.
Visit a local market that sells all manner of produce and goods for the home, from colored powders for kolams, elaborate, polychrome designs drawn for good luck and prosperity, to colorful flower garlands for weddings, births, and other important festivities.
Stop at Namunasamudram, a site with hundreds of terracotta horses lined along a dirt pathway. Each horse represents one harvest season: workers that travel to this area as migrant laborers commemorate their time here with a new terracotta horse. Some are brightly painted while others are headless due to natural wear and tear over the centuries.
Have a private tour of Visalam and visit other Chettinad palaces. Many of them bear markers of the Chettinads' success abroad, such as opulently carved doors and heavy pillars made of teak from Burma. These homes are storied, historical residences, and many of them still have portraits and photos from the family that built the property.
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