2 January 2008

Nattukotai Chettiars

Recently found an interesting narrative (of which the below is part) about the Nattukotai Chettiars who are the main group of benefactors to support the continual maintenance and development of many major Shrines at Tiruvannamalai. The most important of which is the Arunachaleswarar Temple at the foot of Arunachala.

"The Chettiars (also Chetty, Chetti, Setty, Chitty, Shetty and Shettigar) is a title commonly used by people of south Indian origin in India and abroad. It is usually derived from trading social groups. Nattukottai Chettiars are people of Indian origin, well known for their financial dealings and hospitality. They are Hindus and worship the Shiva and Muruga deities of the Hindu faith. Many of the Nattukotai Chettiars proclaim the fact that they are fervent Shaivites by wearing a rudraksham fruit usually set in gold around their necks. Of late, wealthy Chettiars have spent large sums upon several of the famous Shaivite shrines, notably at Chidambram, Madura and Tiruvannamalai.

The Nattukotai Chettiars hail from a place called Chettinad in south India, an area situated in the southeastern region of Tamil Nadu. Originally, Chettinad was the name given to a group of 96 villages situated in the Devakottah revenue division of Ramnad district and the Pudukottah revenue division of Tiruchirapallai district.

Chettiars belong to a prolific business community which moved out of India to foreign lands like Burma, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam (Saigon) and spread their culture in those lands. They travelled to these countries for the sole purpose of making money. They did a considerable amount of business in trade and money-lending in these countries. Nattukottai Chettiars are basically 'bankers' who lend money at nominal interest. They are considered as the pioneers of modern banking. They are the first to introduce what is called pattru (debit), varavu (credit), selavu (expenditure), laabam (profit), nashtam (loss) — which are all, collectively, known as ivnthogai (trial balance).

Chettiars are noted for their gifts to temples and public charities and have generously contributed to the restoration of famous temples in south India, especially at Madurai. In all important towns of those countries outside India where the Chettiars have settled permanently or for business purposes, they have established their own temples and charitable organisations. The members of the community contribute annually a certain percentage of their profits or the capital invested, for the maintenance of their temples and institutions. They have also spent large sums of money in establishing centers of religious learning, poor houses, hospitals, schools and colleges in India."

[By Khalid Akhter]

1 comment:

Divya said...

Thanks for the interesting info!