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Chettiar or Chetty
Total population
14% population of Tamil Nadu[1]
Regions with significant populations
Madurai, Sivagangai, Salem, Pudukkottai, Theni, Coimbatore, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai, Thiruppur, Trichy, Vellore, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Karur, Namakkal, Dindigul Districts, Aruppukkottai, Paramakudi, Karaikkudi
Tamil, Telugu

The term Chettiar or Chetty or "Shetty" is a title used by various mercantile castes in South India, especially in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.[2][3] In Tamil Nadu, 14% of the population is Chettiar.[4] "Chetty" derives from the Sanskrit word "Shreshti" meaning "wealth", and is related to other castes in India like, "Setji" of the Marwaris of Rajastan, Sethi or Seth of Punjab, and Shetty or Setty of Karnataka all of which are mercantile castes with variations of the same root word.[5]


The Chettiar claim a legendary relationship with the Hindu god Murugan (also called Subramaniam).[6]

Social status[edit]

Chettiar communities claim the Vaishya (merchant) varna within Hindu society.[7] The Nattukottai Chettiar are elite bankers.[8] The Vaniya Chettiars are known for running oil mills and selling groceries (food grains).[9][better source needed] The Chettiars are considered to be among the pioneers of organised banking in the country. They are also credited with introducing the concept of double entry bookkeeping, 'Pattru Varavu' in Tamil, commonly known as debit and credit[citation needed]. This community from the south of Tamil Nadu has left a silent signature on everything from manufacturing to banking, fertiliser and films.[10]

Notable people[edit]

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]