The Athangudi tiles a popular handmade decorative floor tiles, originating from a village called Athangudi in the Chettinadu region of Tamil Nadu. These tiles are completely handmade floor tiles, which add charm to the interiors of a house. The art of making these tiles is a traditional activity at Chettinad.
Chettinand, a region down south in India is famous for its aromatic cuisine, splendid architecture and temples – the temples were built in the region as back as under Chola dynasty; various temples are built according to Vaastu Shastra. There are 18th century mansions built in the area that has wide courtyards and huge rooms decorated with material from around the world.
Earlier wealthy merchants who travelled the world brought the ideas home, they brought imported tiles for their homes but soon found that maintenance of the tiles and repair done locally is quite difficult. Until then South Indian floors were clay or stone based and plain in finish. Athangudi tiles were then crafted by the local craftsman and were patronized by the rich people of the area.
Slowly the village became the hub of the handmade tiles and is known across the world as home of the ‘Athangudi’ tiles. The beauty of the tiles is not only the spread of colors with geometric patterns and line drawings but the simple and tedious process with which these tiles are produced.
The tiles are entirely handmade with white sand, cement and pigments. They are a rare blend of the east and the west and have interesting modes of production that speak for its durability. Cement, baby jelly and sand along with synthetic oxides define the composition. The mix of cement and coloured oxide in a liquid slurry state is individually poured into patterned moulds upon a glass piece and then a thin layer of local sand is laid; the tile is then filled to three-fourth inch thickness with cement, sand and small stone aggregates or jelly to get the tile.
Then it is cured in water for a minimum of 21 days before it can be used in a house. Of course these tiles have to be machine polished to get the sheen, but these tiles are low maintenance and can add touch of ethnicity to your house. The tiles are vibrant, traditional and can increase the visual appeal of any building.
As with any other traditional craft the craftsmen are facing tough competition from imported tiles, vitrified ceramic tiles – the craft is slowly disappearing as the younger generations switching to more income generating jobs, the local craftsmen are perhaps in need of encouragement and financial support to keep the age-old skill alive.