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DakshinaChitra

DakshinaChitra is an exciting cross cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts
and performing arts of South India. The main mission is to exhibit, promote and preserve aspects
of the broader, more inclusive cultures of the states and to bring these arts to the public in a
participative, enjoyable and engaging way. DakshinaChitra Heritage Museum, a project of
Madras Craft Foundation an NGO was opened to the public on December 14th 1996. The Museum
is located overlooking the Bay of Bengal, at Muttukadu, twenty five kilometres south of Central
Chennai, on the East Coast Road to Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, and India. DakshinaChitra has
a collection of 18 authentic historical houses with contextual exhibitions in each house. All the
houses bought and reconstructed at DakshinaChitra had been given for demolition by their owners.
The authentic homes in a regional vernacular style are purchased, taken down, transported and
reconstructed by artisans (Stapathis) of the regions from where the houses came
Plan

A welcoming Kolam and flowers greets visitors

The glass of chilled mosambi juice was a life-saver. The blinding white heat and the humid haze
that had assaulted senses from the time

The aware of the quiet and calm of Dakshinachitra, “a living museum of art, architecture, crafts,
and performing arts of South India”.

Located on the East Coast Road in Muthukadu, Dakshinachitra is about 21 km south of Chennai.
The sprawling, 10-acre complex houses carefully recreated heritage structures, traditions and
culture from the four southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil
Nadu. It is also a hub for performing arts, a retreat for artists, a learning centre for students, an
exhibition space, and a place to visit for the culturally inclined tourist…

A shady courtyard at Dakshinachitra

Dakshinachitra is a work in progress. It has a small, but growing collection of heritage structures
from the 4 southern states with representations from certain dominant communities. What is
striking is that even the vegetation of a particular region has been recreated to a certain extent to
complement the area the heritage structures belong to. So while we can see the scrubs and bushes of
northern Karnataka around the houses from that region, Kerala’s lush green vegetation is also
seen around the houses from that state.

The heritage house in the photograph below is from Karnataka and was not yet open to the public
as it was still being reconstructed

A house from Karnataka being reconstructed

The cluster of houses in the photograph below belongs to the weaver’s community from Ilkal in
northern Karnataka. These houses are typically built of granite and the largest room in these
houses is the one with the loom.
A beautiful shrine outside the cluster of houses belonging to the weaving community from Ilkal
South India has a large population of the Lambani or banjara or gypsy community, who are well
known for their embroidery. The photograph below depicts the Lambani version of the
“Ardhanareeshwara”.

The Lambani “Ardhanareeshwara”

This cluster of houses originally formed the agraharamat Ambur village in Tirunelveli District in
Tamil Nadu. When it was demolished, they made their way to Dakshinachitra to be reconstructed
as they were in their original place.

An agraharam from Tirunelveli district.

The merchant’s house in from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu in the photograph below was
grand, but the most was this sepia-toned photograph mounted on a door. This prim and proper little
girl with a sulky expression.

A photograph mounted on a beautifully carved door at the Nattukottai Chettiar house.

The Kerala section has two Hindu houses, a Syrian Christian house, a granary and a
cattleshed—with each house being special and unique to the community and purpose that they
served
A Syrian Christian house

A wall mural inside a Hindu house from Thiruvananthapuram


Cattle shed

Dakshinachitra also offers space for artists to exhibit their art and craft and at any given time
there are 2-3 artists exhibiting their work. I saw an exhibition of giant leather puppets from
Andhra Pradesh. All the puppets were mounted on the walls and most were on characters from the
Ramayana.

Wall mounted leather puppets from Andra Pradesh


Leather puppet of Surpanakha