Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Houses from a bygone era

Dakshinachitra - the famous heritage centre in Chennai showcases the traditions of Southern India - including performing arts, crafts, architecture and visual arts. Set up by the Madras Crafts Foundation on a ten acre piece of land, Dakshinachitra opened to the public in 1996. It's a  popular place for people wanting to get a quick dekko into the traditions of the South. 

To properly tour the centre, that is if you're really interested in traditional architecture and arts, it will take at least 4-5 hours. I spent around 2 hrs there and managed to see just a fraction of the displays. 

The place is large and rambling with prominent signage which tells you the state you are visiting. Dakshinachitra has managed to relocate numerous traditional houses from their original locations and restored and reconstructed them within their premises. Among the ones I saw were houses from Thirunelveli, Chettinad, a muslim house from Chikmagalur and a Syrian Christian house from Kerala. But there are more, many more for which a repeat visit is a must (note to myself!)

Columns in the house from Chettinad

Intricate doorway of the house from Chettinad

Antique wooden chest inside the Chettinad-style house

Door latch in the Syrian Christian house. As intricate as they come.

All-wooden hinge of the main door in the Syrian Christian house

A sculpture of Kamadhenu - the cow of plenty, (circa 1900AD). 
You can get a glimpse of another life-size sculpture in the background.

Sculpture of Saint Theresa, first half of the 20th century

Chikmagalur house (slightly warped panorama shot)

The insides of these houses are preserved either in the same fashion as the traditional houses would have been or they have been turned into museums with artefacts from that particular area. Infact, the house from Chikmagalur had been restored and thrown open to the public only a few days before I visited Dakshinachitra. 

There's also a small area designated as the marketplace where artists sell their finished products. You get to see some of the artisans bringing their creations to life here. The marketplace is a dynamic one with changes regularly. If you ever make a repeat visit you might a different set of artists and art forms next time. Besides the marketplace, the centre also has a shop just inside their reception area where it retails traditional products from across India. 

Hand-painted scroll - Pattachitra from Odisha

A closer look at the intricacy of the Pattachitra scroll

Prakash, the creator of these Pattachitra scrolls at his stall

A corner of Dakshinachitra also houses a large art gallery displaying works by contemporary artists. I can't imagine why I didn't get the names of the artists of the paintings I photographed. 

Paintings on display at the art gallery

A closer look at one of the paintings that caught my eye

Yet another close-up of a painting on display

Dakshinachitra is easily accessible from the city by road and MRTS. It is approx 10 kms from the Chennai Central Railway Station and around 13 kms from the airport. Tuesday is their weekly off and they shut by 6 PM.

For more photographs and events' details, check out their Facebook page.  

Large figurines that form a part of the village temple inside Dakshinachitra

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