Traditional Rejuvenation in True Chettinad Style

by Govindan Naganathan


Posted on 16th Mar, 2015


Visalam

In a time when people are looking for holidays in Singapore or Bangkok not many may be interested in travelling to a rural place within India for a holiday. I came to know of Visalam Heritage Resort in Kanadukathan, a small town near Karaikudi, through our relatives in Tirunelveli and decided to visit the place. True to their words it was a unique experience and I would love to visit this place again.

As soon as we reached Visalam resort we were welcomed by the whole staff that presented us with angavastram (melveshti in Tamil),and traditional pair of glass bangles for women guests and checked in promptly. We were told that the mansion Visalam was a gift to his daughter Vishala from Sri RamanathanChettiar. The staff was all dressed in Indian traditional outfits. The men were indhothis and shirt,and the women were wearing half sarees. Being a south Indian I felt that we were entering a relative's home rather than a resort.


Visalam Interiors
Visalam Interiors

The room we were given was numbered 102, and was spacious and comfortable. The room had a high ceiling and antique cots, besides some sitting furniture, a dressing table and sofas dating back to colonial times. The bathroom of course is modern but the tiling has been kept original. The flooring of the room had handmade tiles which were cool and comfortable to walk on barefoot. The walls were so beautiful and smooth to touch. When I asked the resort staff they said that the walls were made with egg shells, palm jiggery, and sea shells ground together and finishing touches given by polishing with egg white.


Visalam Interiors

The room opened up into a vast space with potted plants, the dining area and the swimming pool were really good. The solar water heating system provides adequate supply of warm water in all the rooms. Kanadukathan, being a very dry area, the resort has adopted rain water harvesting system which is stored in underground tanks after filtering. Visalam resort has a sewage treatment plant where they recycle waste water to use in their garden. The swimming pool uses non chlorinated water and the pool water is treated using natural eco friendly methods. There is also a spiral staircase in the building which is supposed to have been brought in from UK.


Visalam Common Area

There is no room service, phone, or television in the room. Morning tea / coffee is served in the common area where carom boards, chess boards and Indian traditional games likepallankuzhi are kept for the entertainment of the guests. There is also an old radio (valve type) which still works and picks up the local station.


Visalam Pool

The resort has three dining areas: the poolside for breakfast,traditional lunch (served in banana leaves) in the kitchen area and dinner on the terrace. The food served is traditional Chettinad style and is spicy. RO water is provided for drinking both in rooms and in the dining area. The vegetables used are all from their own garden.


Visalam Bullock Cart

The resort also arranged for a bullock-cart ride through the town to visit a local weaving unit, a handmade tile-manufacturing unit and visit to PeriaVeedu (big bungalow).It was indeed a unique experience.

During our stay at Visalam, we also visited thePillayarpatti temple which is about 12 Kms from resort.Pillayarpatti is a cave temple which has sculptures depicting various gods and goddesses carved in rock. However the main deity is Lord Ganesha or Karprka Vinayakar.The Pillayarpatti Ganesha is carved out of a hillock and is 6 feet tall. The idol is unique with the tusk unusually carved to the right. The deity is referred to as Valampuri Pillaiyar by locals. The temple timings are from 6 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 8 pm.Photography inside the temple was not allowed.

When we were checking out, the whole resort's staff was present to send us off with a gift basket full of Murukku.


Farewell at Visalam

I have no words to express this unique experience of getting to know the Chettinad customs and especially their food and traditional hospitality ( Adhiti Devo Bhava). I can only say that it was a memorable and marvellous stay at Visalam Heritage Resort. My heartfelt thanks are due for our relative from Tiunelveli, who spared the time to travel with us to this lovely resort, where we enjoyed every moment.










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About the Author: Govindan Naganathan

Govindan

An Electrical Engineer by qualification, I chose marketing as my profession. I took an early retirement to shift to Bangalore for family reasons and continued as an Engineering consultant for a few years before joining Rotary club. I am passionate about community service, and have been closely associated with Rotary Bangalore - Yelahanka in many of their health care initiatives, specifically paediatric heart surgery for poor children. An avid traveller, I have toured all over India and also visited Italy, South Africa, Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta (Jogja), Nepal etc. I am a voracious reader with an appetite for new and varied topics across genres. Currently, I am involved in writing blogs and travel reviews, and travelling extensively. You can follow my other blogs here.

Tags:

Visalam Heritage Resort, Kanadukathan, Karaikudi