The gentle west wind hums/ As it blows in from the lake/ Over the fields and swaying palms/ The soul songs of the waves.
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Friday, September 21, 2007
DakshinaChitra: South India in 10 acres.
Would you like to take a cultural tour of South India in a day? Go to DakshinaChitra at Muttukadu off Chennai on the East Coast Road (ECR). The first time I went there was two years ago for a corporate dinner (see: Jaltarang). Recently my daughter Rosemary Isaac who is associated with DakshinaChitra took me took me there again.
The first thing that struck me when I saw the buildings and layout of the undulated ten acresite was the similarity to Laurie Baker’s famous architectural masterpiece, the Centre for Development Studies at Trivandrum.Not surprising. I believe that Laurie Baker (see: Laurie Baker - A Tribute.) conceived the layout of DakshinaChitra. It was detailed and transformed into reality by his former student Benny Kuriakose (engineer& conservation architect) and his team.
And the result is amazing. The organizers call DakshinaChitra ‘a continuous cultural journey’. It started in 1984 when Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan and her associates formed the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF). The Tamil Nadu Government gave the land at Muttukadu in 1991. DakshinaChitra was opened to the public in 1996. Today it is a famous heritage centre of international standard and keeps growing with the financial and other support of friends and well-wishers.
What DakshnaChitra offers is a cultural feast to the casual visitor and the more serious ones. It is a showcase of South Indian culture - architecture, music, arts and crafts, folk performances and much more. The place has support facilities like seminar hall, exhibition gallery, activity halls, guesthouse, canteen, library, boutique, craft bazaar, mandapam, artisan quarters and amphitheater. It has also become an in-place for corporate functions and weddings.
But the most impressive aspect of DakshinaChitra is the collection of South Indian houses. Not models, but real ones transplanted brick by brick from the four South Indian States – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Not just one building from each region but dwellings of different communities. One can walk into a Tamil Nadu merchant’s house, come out at the back and cross the street to an agraharam. Or turn right to a farmer’s house. If you go in the other direction it is a Syrian Christian house from Kerala, and so on. They are all authentic.
Within the ten acres of DakshinaChitra campus, one can make a study of South Indian culture. The place has quite a number of visitors, which include families that come on picnic cum sightseeing. But I didn’t find many foreigners at DakshinaChitra. Increased publicity would attract more of them; actually that would be a service to the tourists who may miss the essence of South Indian culture even with an extended tour.
Dr. Debora Thiagarajan and her associates deserve kudos for creating DakshinaChitra. Public support is required for the success of their continuing efforts to improve and expand the remarkable venture. Please do visit the website