Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Traditional Indian Flooring

Imagine the harsh summer sun, beating down on you. There’s no respite from the hot winds blowing across the streets. Until you step barefoot, into a traditional built Indian home. Cool tiles underfoot soothe your soles, relieving all manner of tiredness, and in short, welcome you into cool confines, insulated against the worst of summer heat.

Different parts of India have their own flooring traditions, dependent on locally available raw material, craftsmanship and the extent of use of cultural symbols.

Athangudi tiles, named after the place in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, where they are manufactured, come in myriad colours and patterns and are made by a unique process, using local soil. These tiles are testimony to the rich cultural heritage of the Chettiars, who traded extensively in the days of yore, especially with Burma. The Chettiars effectively adapted many an influence, to their own brand of local craftsmanship. The designs and colours used in Athangudi tiles are still those of a bygone era, with minimal contemporisation.

Recycling has been a concept that has long-existed in India. Traditionally, cow-dung was used to plaster flooring. Mandana is one such tradition, from Rajasthan, where red clay and cow dung are mixed to make the floor. It is then painted with traditional symbols with rice paste and coloured powders.

Terracotta tiles have graced many an old bungalow of the British Raj. Red Oxide was used to polish it and give it that unique texture and to deepen the reddishness of the terracotta. Clearly, local materials and techniques were used to good effect in those days to minimize the effects of the harsh tropical weather.

While Mandana and Athangudi tiles are patterned, the latter also come in unpatterned rich colours. Terracotta tiles come in a fixed range of earthy colours, depending on the place from which the clay originates.

There is a resurgence of demand for these seemingly rustic flooring options, as more and more people are looking to merge the contemporary with the traditional to give their homes a unique identity. Not to mention, that the options are eco-friendly and ideal for tropical weather.

Compared to most modern flooring options, they are also more cost-effective. Also, architects are returning to old materials and techniques, to give a fresh, yet traditional perspective to contemporary spaces.

 Pic by author
An edited version of this article was published in the October 2005 issue of At A Glance.


sarojap said...

we Have booked a flat and i want to put this athangudi maroon color tiles,but my husband is not sure whether it will look good,how do i convince him please help me.

Saritha said...

Many apologies for not replying earlier. Athangudi looks earthy and cool, but I hear it is fairly laborious to maintain and shows up scratches and chips easily.

If this is not too late, my suggestion is to get one room or portion of your house done with this flooring. Like in a verandah or balcony or a small alcove. You can create your own personal space there with a nice ethnic look with an armchair and a reading lamp, Tanjore paintings, brass curios etc.


vikram duggi said...

hii! saritha... I am Vikram... I am trying to get these athangudi tiles for my house... since they are cost effective... so i thought....

but here in bangalore they are charging me Rs.50/- per sqft.... also i tried someone in chennai who quoted rs.80/-which is a little too expensive....

please let me know if you have any details of dealers or some contact in athangudi itself... please help
my email id

thank you bye

Deepa said...

any distributors in North Kerala?

Saritha said...

No idea, Deepa.

praveen said...


I manufacture athangudi tiles,my production unit is located in Athangudi and my marketing office is located in Bangalore.
Anyone interested in these tiles. The cost price for these tiles is Rs 40/= inculusive of transporatation. Please mail me

Saritha said...

Thanks for writing in, Praveen. Do you have a website? Or a soft-copy catalogue?

Praveen Kumar said...

We are going to launch our website soon shall send you the soft copy as soon as possible.

praveen said...

Deepa said...

I would like to cite a bad experience we had with tilekraft.We booked for tiles in early November and asked us to deliver by the first week of December.He took a token advance of Rs.2000/ and told that he would send an email receipt for the same.Needless to say,we did not get any receipt.In December, when we asked for tiles he stated that the tiles could not be dried due to bad weather condition in TN.We accepted and still waited.No response from him. Again we called multiple times and he could sms us but would not call us.He told some clumsy reason as he did not get the dye for the tiles or some thing.Again by end of December we called him at the hotel annachi he responded telling there was some problem at his manufacturing unit.After that neither did he did call us nor gave us the money back.He never even bothered to send an email or a text message also as of date on Jan 12 2011..Please do not get fooled by all these persons

Naveen said...

Hi Deepa,
Did you finally get the tiles from Tilekraft? I am in Bangalore and want get either terracotta or Athangudi Tiles for our living room but am finding it hard to get a honest/reliable contact. Had a bad experience when i got red oxide flooring done.

yadav_shalini said...

Dear Deepa,
Have you rfeceived the tiles yet, I am also planning to buy these from tilekraft

praveen said...


My name is Praveen Kumar and I am a representative from TileKraft. For one last time" Fooling or cheating people is not at all my company's mission or goal".Let me share a few facts. Firstly, your tiles are still stationed in Bangalore. Secondly, we did telephone your representative a number of times and was unable to reach him. Thirdly, when we explained that these tiles would take time to deliver due to bad weather conditions that prevailed during the time, we also conveyed that it would not be possible to deliver the tiles and we could refund your money. But your representative was stubborn that he need those tiles at any cost. So as a whole, we do accept that there was a communication snag. But your branding us as "Cheaters " is totally not acceptable. Why on this earth would I cheat you for Rs 2000.00. I admit you know my office in Bangalore, since you had met us. Then why didn't you make an attempt to visit us. We are a very young team,we are educated well. We are here to run a business and achieve our goals and not to cheat others.

You could contact some of the top architects and interior designers such as BCIL, pragrup, Venkatraman associates etc and check our reputation.

For one last time " We the employees of Tile Kraft are not cheaters"

Alka said...

We are building a house in bangalore. We would like to use the Athangudi tiles. I wanted to know the cost effectiveness of the tiles and how do we go about it.

Anonymous said...

Athangudi palace Tiles…..

Greetings from Athangudi palace tiles…..

I am a manufacturer of Athangudi Tiles, my manufacturing unit is in Athangudi itself . My company's name is athangudi palace tiles. pls call.9442228331,9442229331. 211,PRG. Garden, Athangudi main road,Cokkalingampudur,karaikudi.TK.630101, sivagangai district , Tamil nadu ,South,,

Thanking you

With Best Regards


Anonymous said...

Mr. Praveen Kumar,
Please explain to me why you have appropriated our photos from without a word of intimation or approval. Also, an image of MRM House, which is a private property is put up on your website. We will be contacting you with regard to infringement of copyright for public and unauthorized use of our images.

M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation

Anonymous said...

Tile Kraft has lifted all the photos in their website gallery from M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation's site.
On being questioned as to why we were not requested permission, they have asked us to go ahead and do what we can about it. It is sad that companies with such poor work ethics exist.

M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation

Srini said...

Hi Saritha,

I was looking at, and it quotes "However, having little shelf life and relatively slow manufacturing process, these tiles are not much in demand". What does shelf life mean?

Srini said...

Hi Saritha,

I was looking at, and it quotes "However, having little shelf life and relatively slow manufacturing process, these tiles are not much in demand". What does shelf life mean?

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.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Vivek Chand completely. We went to Athangudi and were very impressed with the tile samples we were shown and placed an order with Selva Industries there. This has proved to be one of the biggest mistakes of our lives.Selva and his son Alex are completely unscrupulous. The tiles were delivered and then our ordeal began. We had to wait nearly a year before they would send someone to lay the tiles, and that too after extracting more money from us, though the deal was that the laying was included in the cost of the tiles. But we were desperate enough to agree with anything as we were unable to move into the house until the flooring was done. Finally the tile layers arrived, did a slipshod job with uneven edges and bad sloping, like it happened in Vivek's apt. After that we had to beg and plead with selva to send the polishers. This was finally done after 4 months and a further payment of Rs 25000. Now the floor needs to be seen to be believed. All the rooms look like municipal toilet floors, badly stained and chipped and very, very ugly. Both my husband, a retired army officer and I are heart-broken as we had sunk our entire life's savings into our house. Maybe we went to the biggest frauds and con-men in Athangudi and there are others who are more honest and professional.But we are completely disillusioned and need to wait a couple of years before we can think of re-tiling our floor-with vitrified tiles this time. I am willing to provide photographs of the shoddy work provided by Alex and Selva so people can judge for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,
Reading all these posts, I feel the manufacturers of Athangudi tiles are not professionals while dealing with their customers.I am now very sceptical about buying from them. Before I finally drop my plan anyone has any good experience,of buying and laying Athangudi tiles?Can you refer a good vendor?

VAStales said...

Ranjith, I am also having the same experience. Completely bad experience with the service providers of athangudi tiles. Don't know how to resolve this. Does anyone know of athangudi tile layers in Bangalore. I have a project that is on the verge of being shelved by the athangudi professionals. So I am looking for alternative tile layers, pls respond if you know of any 'reliable' and 'professional' tillers. Thanks, Vasanti