Athangudi Village, in the Shivagagai district of Chettinaad is home to various crafts from the region that ranges from culinary expertise to exquisite craftsmanship in architectural marvels.
The mention of Chettinaad famously stirs up aromas of delectable cuisine in the mind. But, one step into its beautiful Chettiyaar mansions and it’s a magnificent feast for the eyes.
A very important contribution to the Chettinad grandeur is the art of developing and sustaining a tile pattern that is unique to this region of India, now known as Athangudi tiles - an art-form that is almost 150 years old.
These tiles are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Chettiar community, who effectively adapted many influences to their own brand of local craftsmanship.,
The Athangudi tiles are completely hand-made using local and eco-friendly materials from the region.Deft hands of the craftsmen use cement, sand, jelly and water to make dough. Then measured quantity of colour is mixed with sand, cement and water to make the chosen colour solution for the tiles. The colour solution is then poured into glass slabs that make for the base, fitted with a border frame and a design frame, locally called Aass. Once the design is made, the tiles are dried and treated with water for 6 days, and then sun-dried again.
Once completely dried, the glass frame naturally eases out, leaving a smooth sheen and lustre on the tile. The Athangudi tiles come in striking geometrical patterns, vibrant colours, line drawings and lovely floral designs bringing grandeur to any place they inhabit, and are sure to floor anyone.
Coupled with a short shelf life and a relatively slow manufacturing process, these tiles also needed a lot of care even after production.This led to the overall decline in it’s popularity in the market for some time. Now with new design intervention by architects and interior designers in reuse of period style home decor architecture techniques/style, these tiles have been given fresh lease of life in the world of architecture. .A 150 year old craft thas been revived as a unique art-deco tile pattern technique from India.
It’s quite amazing to know that in spite of being such a specialty of the Chettinad region, they are yet to be conferred with GI — the Geographical Indication for original place of production. That is the next battle that the local manufacturers are grappling with currently.
It’s true and sad to know that only our fear of losing something that we treasure that makes us really work hard to work on it’s revival. Such is our love for stories of handmade – a skill that is so unique to this country of so many artisans and master craftsmen.