Timothy Tye
Chettiar Kattangi

Chettiar Kattangi, George Town, PenangChettiar Kattangi, George Town, Penang (7 July 2012)

Chettiar Kattangi (GPS: 5.4164, 100.33944) is the hub of the Chettiar community in the Little India of George Town, Penang. It is located along Penang Street, across the road from the Chettiar community's Silver Chariot House.

Hall where the Chettiar clerical staff conduct their money-lending businessHall where the Chettiar clerical staff conduct their money-lending business (7 July 2012)

The Chettiars of Penang are from the Nagarathar caste community. They hailed from Kaveripoompattinam (Cauvery Poompattinam) in the ancient Tamil kingdom of Chola (ca. 300 BC - AD 1279). Today Kaveripoompattinam is the town of Puhar, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, India. Since before documented history, the Nagarathars have been active seafarers who spread across the region to conduct trading activities, venturing into Sri Lanka, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia as well as Singapore.

As the patron deity of the Nagarathar Community is Murugan, hence Hindu temples dedicated to Murugan are constructed by the Nagathars where they are in substantial numbers. In Penang, this is represented by the Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple at Jalan Kebun Bunga.

Ledger of the Chettiar KattangiLedger of the Chettiar Kattangi (7 July 2012)

Display of Chettiar furnishingDisplay of Chettiar furnishing (7 July 2012)

The Chettiar Kattangi on Penang Street is where the Nagarathars held their office and residence. This is where they conducted their money-lending business. This is where the Chettiar clerical staff, called Kanakapullai, station themselves. The business hall of the Chettiar Kattangi is equipped with their trade furniture. This includes the writing desk and treasury box. In this, many of the words in the Chettiar nomenclature have been adopted into the Malay vocabulary. Among them, the word petti for box and mejai for desk.

During the George Town Festival, the Chettiar Kattangi opened its doors to the general public, to provide a glimpse into their business.

Members of the Nattukottai Nagarather of the Chettiar KattangiMembers of the Nattukottai Nagarather of the Chettiar Kattangi (l-r: Mr Thannimalai L., Mr SP. Lakshmanan, Mr A. Ramasamy and Mr RM. Palaniappan) (7 July 2012)

Entrance of the Chettiar KattangiEntrance of the Chettiar Kattangi (7 July 2012)

The Chettiar Kattangi is on the map of Penang Street

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