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Chettiar or Chetty
Total population
(14% population of Tamil Nadu)

The term Chettiar (Chetty) is a title used by various mercantile, agricultural and land owning castes in South India, especially in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.[1][2] It is primarily used by trading communities. In Tamil Nadu, 14% of the population is Chettiar and are categorised as OBC by the Government of India.[3]

"Chetty" derives from the Sanskrit word Shreshti, meaning wealth. It has variants in other parts of India, such as the Setji term used by the Marwaris of Rajasthan.. All of these are mercantile castes.[4]


The Chettiar claim a legendary relationship with the Hindu god Murugan (also called Subramaniam).[5]

Social status[edit]

The Nattukottai Chettiar are elite bankers.[6]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Christine Dobson, Asian Entrepreneurial Minorities, Curzon Press UK, 1996. (A chapter in the book is devoted to the Chettiars who set up businesses in Burma.)
  • Rajeswary Brown (1993) "Chettiar capital and Southeast Asian credit networks in the inter-war period". In G. Austin and K. Sugihara, eds. Local Suppliers of Credit in the Third World, 1750-1960. (New York: St. Martin's Press).
  • Kudaisya, Medha M. (2009). "Marwari and Chettiar Merchants. 1850s-1950s: Comparative Trajectories". In Kudaisya, Medha M.; Ng, Chin-Keong. Chinese and Indian Business: Historical Antecedents. Leiden: BRILL. ISBN 9789004172791. 
  • David Rudner (1989) Banker's Trust and the Culture of Banking among the Nattukottai Chettiars of Colonial South India. Modern Asian Studies 23 (3), 417-458.
  • Heiko Schrader (1996) Chettiar Finance in Colonial Asia. Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie 121, 101-126.

External links[edit]