The Nattukottai Chettiars, also known as Nagarathars, are a community of merchants and financiers by tradition. They are from the Chettinadu region of Tamil Nadu, India. Chettinadu has developed around Karaikudi town and today comprises 75 villages.
Over hundreds of years, the Chettiars have engaged in various businesses in South India, along the Coromandel Coast, and in South and Southeast Asia. During the two hundred year period between 1750 and 1950 they were best known as bankers and financiers in Burma, Ceylon, the Strait Settlements (Singapore), Federated Malay States, Indo-China (Vietnam) and Sumatra (Indonesia). As private financiers before the arrival of modern banks, they provided the financial liquidity that enabled the traditional peasant economies in these countries to transform themselves into modern, commodity-driven export economies reaching out to international markets. During those years in South and Southeast Asia, they built about 120 Hindu temples, mostly to Murugan, and established Thaipusam as an annual major celebration in the region.
Their wealth, acquired over two centuries, has been put to significant philanthropic use in South India. They have renovated and constructed hundreds of temples, built numerous water tanks; founded several colleges, polytechnics and schools, established several hospitals, and seeded a number of charitable trusts. One family established the first private university in India, another laid the foundations for a university.
As benefactors and patrons of culture and the arts, they have contributed considerably to the vibrancy of Tamil culture in a number of areas: Saiva-Siddhantam, language, poetry, music and dance, cinema, architecture, jewellery, and cuisine.
All this and more you will find in the pages of the Chettiars’ Temple Society Digital Library.