Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Athangudi tiles

I had an opportunity to visit the village of Attangudi, near Madurai where traditional artisans continue to make colourful floor tiles that are similar to the red oxide floor but with geometrical and floral motifs. The tiles looked beautiful. As you watch the tiles being made, and go back and forth from looking at the process to the finished product, you know that this is something you want to use, simply because the colours, the designs and the sheen look great.

The question is “Would this only work in a traditional house plan?” Many of us are keen on a contemporary house and you wonder if a beige vitrified tile floor would be more in tune with your non-ethnic tastes? Luckily for us, there are immense possibilities, if we do decide to go with the attangudi tile floor. Its possible to order tiles with just a single colour and no motifs; its possible to order floor tiles that are plain and skirting tiles that have a simple geometric design, with colours that complement each other. Besides, I do believe that its possible to include elements with traditional motifs in a contemporary setting. Its just about knowing how much of the traditional and how much of the modern.

Here is a YouTube film on the making of Athangudi tiles :

Source :

Most of us in the cities would buy tiles for our house from the biggest brands in ceramic tiles such as Kajaria or Johnson tiles. Kajaria Ceramics which is a 700 crore company has a European collection. They import tiles from Italy and Spain for the Indian market. While we source from Europe, can we also source from a village in Tamil Nadu? Kajaria has a distribution network of about 600 dealers and about 6000 sub-dealers all over the country. What if the display division of the marketing department at Kajaria or Johnson focused on promoting Athangudi tiles as well?

If the curricula in architecture schools in India would encourage its students to document vernacular ways of building and traditional building materials and their processes, we could create a database that Kajaria could use. If the curricula in management schools would encourage its students to document the supply-chain systems in rural economies and analyse how these could be made more efficient, we could perhaps make it attractive for Kajaria to seek out and support the artisan of Athangudi while making great profits in their business.

In the meanwhile, if you want to khow how to visit the Athangudi village, you can contact Karthick Gopal at He is part of the DHAN foundation, an NGO that works in several villages of Tamil Nadu. Here are their contact details : DHAN Foundation, 18, Pillaiyar Koil Street, S.S. Colony, Madurai - 625 016, Tamil Nadu.
Tel: +91-452-2610794, 2610805 and the link to their website :

In case you would just like to order the tiles, you can still contact DHAN since they know the artisans well and will be able to give you their contact details. Here is a link to their blog: Explore Chettinad


Praveen Kumar said...
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Vivek Chand said...

We wanted to use Athangudi tiles upstairs in my Apt. We narrowed our search for vendors to Tilecraft and another vendor from Athangudi who seemed quite genuine. We chose Tilecraft as he was a local vendor and would be easy to follow up. Here is our horrible experience with Tilecraft.

The tiles are not packed in cartons like all other tiles are. They are kept loose in a lorry with lots of hay. However, a lot of edges are broken by the time they come from Athangudi. The tile layers were very inexperienced (brought in by Tile Craft). They got the basic slopes wrong. In the bargain, there is a dip in one part of the flooring and when it rains. There is a huge puddle of water thanks to the lousy slope. When I complained to Balaji of Tilecraft, he said that he will get a few more tiles of the same colour and relay that part. After 6 months, he has not picked up my calls, obviously with no intention to replace them.

The other goof up: I have used the basic red (terracotta) coloured tiles. Inbetween the tiles, they should have used a mixture of red oxide, cement and water to close the gaps. However, the layer used a mixture of only grey cement and water and used a cloth dipped in red oxide on the top. My mastery who had worked with red oxide floorings advised him to mix the red oxide along with the cement and offered to even buy the red oxide. However, the tile layer refused to take the suggestion. As a result, most of the joints look grey instead of red. And with the broken edges thanks to the bad transportation, it looks even worse. All my guests ask me whether the upstairs flooring was the original one (it’s a 20 year old apt. which I bought and renovated completely – every flooring, wiring and plumbing).

Tilecraft are cheats and my advice is not to deal with them. Please do not work with this company.

Vinod Kurup said...

My wife and I visited Athangudi to see the tile making process and purchase Athangudi tiles for our villa. I had already contacted Selva industries through email and we therefore went specifically to them for our purchase, my wife was keen to replicate the experience of her ancestral home in Kerala and we therefore decided that the full flooring for house would be done in Athangudi tiles and ended up purchasing both external and internal tiles spending over a lac in 2011. Numerous calls had to be placed before the delivery happened. Unfortunately post the delivery the construction of the house got delayed due to non availability of workmen which now I consider a godsend. The tiles were kept in a room during the ensuing construction period and when the time came to lay the tiles the true picture emerged. The dye that had been used was very poor quality especially in a set of green tiles we had ordered for the first floor. The tiles were also showing hairline cracks on the surface. I took a decision not to use the green tiles as additionally the ends were starting to chip off. In order to limit my losses I decided I would use the red Athangudi tiles on the mezzanine floor and the covered verandas. The tiles within months of laying are showing hairline cracks and the colour has dulled. My sincere advise to people buying Athangudi tiles is avoid Selva industries. The Father and son duo who run the place are not trustworthy based on my experience. Interestingly and sadly both these people say with pride that Athangudi tiles was developed by their father/grandfather and I use the word sadly as my wife and me went with the intention of promoting local industry but were taken for a ride with the final quality and workmanship.