It’s been 2 years since I set my eyes on Athangudi tiles. I saw it on a blog that I frequent and it was love at first sight. I’ve spent all these months planning for a trip to Karaikudi. I travel quite a bit, but this trip wasn’t just coming through. When I finally managed to get here, the trip was just perfect. Two really close people, one a friend with whom I’ve spent the dreamy years of college giggling, shopping and forging a friendship for the rest of our lives. The other one is an interesting story, I’ve hardly met him thrice in the ten odd years that I’ve known him and we get along very well.
In the coming weeks, I will write about all the wonderful sights and people we met in this packed four day trip. For now, let me start with my first love.
Athangudi is a relatively new craft. The region is dominated by Chettiars, a community of rich traders. The Chettairs built fabulous mansions with wooden pillars, Belgian and Japanese tiles, Italian marbles and imported stained glass. But over time, they realized that repairs were expensive due to the non availability of spares. So the inherently enterprising community set up an industry that made replicas of the imported tiles. The sand from Athangudi suited this procedure the best and this village became the hub of tile production.
(Photo courtesy: S. A. Girish) Made with white cement, sand and pigments, the tiles are entirely hand-made. Colors mixed with white cement are poured using a mould on a glass base. The glass helps in giving the tile a smooth, polished surface.
(Photo courtesy: S. A. Girish) The design is packed with cement on top and left to dry in the sun.
It is later cured in water for a couple of days and again dried in the sun.
The laying process involves the use of sand, cement, lime and the top is polished with rice husk.
There are about 60 designs, will try to put it up on Flickr with product codes. Here are some of them.