The region of Chettinad is located in the central part of the State of Tamil Nadu (South India), with Chennai (Madras) as its capital. The main town of the region is Karaikkudi, which is 400 km from Chennai and 90 km from the major sites of the state, such as Thanjavor (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Tiruchirapalli and Madurai.
The Saratha Vilas was built in 1905 by Tiru S.A.S. Subramanian Chettiar, a wealthy Tamil merchant and banker, who established his business headquarters in Malacca (Malaysia). His native Chettinad region and therefore began the construction of a spacious and luxurious family home. The house was built following the conceptual rules of Vastu Shastra, the traditional science of architecture and well-being dictating spatial orientation and utilization. Bernard Dragon and Michel Adment, French Architects, have carefully restored and converted the mansion into an exclusive heritage hotel by engaging local village craftsmen who come from families with generations of skilled laborers.
THE SARADHA VILAS
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 19 th century when they were at the peak of their economic power. As a result of their traveling, the Chettiars integrated diverse influences into their traditions which contributed to their uniqueness. Their villages were constructed upon precise and sophisticated rules of urban planning, represented namely by orthogonal streets and specific water management systems, which are also directly linked to the earlier Tamil traditions of rectangular plots and houses with an inner courtyard.
The houses, which evolved over two centuries, are veritable palaces, and one can see hundreds of them in each village. On the ground floor, the architecture is typically Tamil, while one can see Western influences on the higher floors. This reflects the Chettiar way of life, a combination of their vibrant traditions with the global economy. In order to build these palaces, materials and expertise from all over the world were used, only adding to the cultural glory of Chettinad.