Floored by Classical Patterning: Handmade Tiles of Athangundi

Laying out the colorful flooring and walls of palatial mansions, factories in Athangudi village, near the famous Karaikudi town of Chettinad, Tamil Nadu have been producing the alluring handmade tiles for more than 150 years now.

The most enchanting way to experience the Chettinad village in Tamil Nadu is visiting the palatial mansions built by the wealthy Chettiar (merchant) community, one cant afford to miss the  colourful tiles adorning the floors and the walls of the precincts.

Earlier, the merchants used to import the  tiles from Japan and Persia but to overcome the damages and repairing cost mounted in  transit, they decided the setting up of a tile factory in Athangudi village, near the famous Karaikudi town of Chettinad. Ever since then, each cement tile is individually made by skilled craftsmen.

Though it is an extremely laborious and time consuming process. The manufacturers believe that local soil has such texture and character that the tiles can be molded even to into free-hand designs. Besides this  Geometric and floral patterns in red, blue, green, and grey, are common. While manufacturers usually use template-based patterns.

The low  maintenance Athangudi tiles consist of smaller tiles put together and their sheen keeps on increasing with time. The handcrafted process is thoroughly eco-friendly too, it involves the use of local clay and sand, natural ingredients (such as husks), sun drying the tiles, etc.

Like any handcrafted goods, Athangudi tiles are also faced with the competition from mass production and survival is an uphill task but the renewed interest in the tiles by a group of discerning architects and interior designers has given a fresh lease of life to this legacy art but more needs to be done.

But a buyer should have the eyes for the beauty and it is advised  to verify the store one is ordering the tiles from.

Cover image by Peacock Colours

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