Monday, January 7, 2013

Dakshinachitra - Where traditions are alive in a changing society

Change is inevitable and so in a dynamic  world everything from art, culture,cuisine,couture and architecture changes. As people on the move in a changing world, we learn to adapt ourself to  the new environment and move on in life. And we move at such a grand pace that we lose track of our fading heritage.

 At times like these, it is nice to stop at places where culture and traditions are alive. One such place where traditions are preserved is at “Dakshinachitra”  meaning picture of the south. Dakshinachitra is the brain child of Deborah Thiagarajan an American who married an Indian and was mesmerized by the culture of India.

This place which is 30 kms from Chennai on East Coast Road  exhibits, promotes and preserves the art, culture and architecture  of the diverse people of India with more emphasis on the southern states.

It was  my wish  for more than 7 years to see this place. But unfortunately my flying visits to Chennai only allows me time to hop from one relatives house to another or attend weddings/functions. This time I ensured we would visit, come what may and I am glad I visited it now than before. My grown up children enjoyed it better now by clicking the place to glory. This place is also a photographers delight.

 A great place to be especially if you, like me  cross paths  on connecting with art & culture .  Set in idyllic village surroundings  with a sand river meandering by, you walk over  bridges,  sandy roads and not on asphalted roads .  As you hop on from one organically constructed  home to another, you experience  and feel the simple ,  unstressful  life of yore.   Perhaps the reason why lifestyle diseases were unheard of in bygone times.

Here You have replicas of potters house, weavers house, agriculturists house, merchant house, Syrian chrisitan house, the kuthatukullam house(kerala) , an ayyanar shrine,  chettinad house(TN),  a chickmagalur style house(Karnataka),  ikkat house(AP), coastal andhra house  and many more. Each house's architecture is specified to suit the regions climate and functionality of the community. For instance,The coastal andhra homes architecture is simple . The houses are round with a conical peaked hay roof. The coastal regions of AP are prone to cyclones and so during cyclonic storms, the wind is dispersed arount the house's round form and during floods, the peaked conical roof floats.

In some house, the real crafts like weaving palm basket,  pottery,  papier mache crafts,  leaf painting  are demonstrated  and the tourists can try their hand at these .

  There is a kaleidoscope of activities happening here like kili josiyam(predictions by parrot),playing traditional games like paandi(hop scotch), thayam, pallankuzhi( indoor games), bullock cart rides, block printing and glass blowing.

It periodically hosts fests of other states giving a peek into the culture of Indian states. When we went, a 15 day Punjabi fest was on which showcased the colorful life, cuisine and arts of Punjab .  It was not just about bhangra but other dance forms of Punjab like Gidha, Sammi , Luddi, Jhoomer and many more which I never heard of before. In the central space there was a open air market selling handicrafts at reasonable places.

 This place is a charming throw back to the past connecting you to the vernacular architecture. Especially if you are one of those who have lived and brought up in a city seeing apartments, tudor styled villas etc.,. 

We got there on a December tea time( around 4.30), the weather was great. The swaying large trees and the organic layout  made  it a pleasure to go around. We did give a quick tour around since the place was closing at 6.

Check out the clicks below, some photos may not be in frame and lack clarity.Click on them to feel the place.

                                   A replica of a 1914 Chikmagalur house of  Karnataka.
The central courtyard of  a Chettinad style home(TN). The rooms of the house are built around this inner courtyard. The courtyard allows light and air into the house. The spout in the forefront of the photo is the rain water harvesting channel practised even in olden days. 

The chettinad women( a business community of TN)  folk playing traditional game called pallankuzhi

The tamil brahmin row homes called agraharam which has a seating platform in the frontyard  called thinnai to rest weary strangers/visitors
Brahmin homes had a vrindavan(tulsi plant) in the backyard of the home. The backyard was called mittam.

                                               The functional pitloom  machine displayed in a weavers home
a women demonstrating basket weaving with palm leafs in a weavers home

      This man's passion to smoke fire into glass and create glass figurines has brought him to Dakshinachitra. He has a diploma in scientific apparatus studies and was working with a company manufacturing scientific equipments in Kolkatta. Here he sprays fire into glass pencils and creates high precision sculpts.
                 Some of his creations, at the right side you see two or three figures overlapping and hence no clarity.

                                                The activities you can do at Dakshinchitra

A potters home, here you can try your hand at making pottery with the potters wheel

                                                            A kerala styled home
                                      A ikkat weavers house typical to the region of Warangal in AP.


  1. I have a complaint against you. Every post you write on a place makes me want to go there and gets added to the long list that is now growing longer. Had heard of Dakshinachitra before, but having read your post , now its climbing up the list. Give me some time to knock off a few places from the list milady !!

    Seriously, you are a wonderful travel writer.

    1. Wow! a compliment err...complaint from a revered blogger of blogsville cannot be dismissed. so what to do:)

      *i take a bow*

      Seriously, i cherish those words from a blogger of your calibre. Thank you:)

  2. chaanceleenga..intha edathuku naanum poirukken..but never observed these many details :)) antha kili josiyamla thaan sonaanga.seekirama oora vittu oda pora raasanu kili sollithu :( anga iruntha restaurantla dosai order pannitu semma late aagi..kooda vantha makkal chef kooda semma argument...paanai pudikaren sollitu en friend ennamolaam shape form panna :D:D it was fun..but one day is hardly enough if you are interested in roaing the whole place

    1. kili josiyam predictions come trueaaa? surprising!

      But no time to eat or paanai pidikka.... we rushed around lost time clicking photos. could'nt try many activities like pottery, papier mache.

      Yes, we need a day around to roam leisurely atleast 6 hours if we want to try everything:)

  3. This place looks great and thank for showing us all ..

    wonderful pictures


    1. my pleasure to share, bikram:) thank you.

  4. This is great. The place looks interesting :)


    1. Yes Megha, it is an interesting and a place worth visiting:)

  5. Oh My!! It would be a treat to visit this place!!

  6. Thats an interesting place. Your travelogues and photos are superb. Each post of yours makes me eager to visit them :D

  7. Even I have heard a lot about this place, but just like our visits are always so short, just enough to visit relatives. Must make time to visit it next time. Nice pictures, and very informative article.
    Good reminder too to visit it.

  8. You will like it. Thanks Rama:)

  9. Amazing pictures shot and nice writing about Indian culture, art and gallery, its shows us culture about our country India. thanks for sharing this post. Book a nice package of india holiday like: leh ladakh tour package, himachal tour package and manali honeymoon package with reasonable price.

  10. every weekend i would like to vist some new places this time i choose to visit this place before i vist i read your blog really thanku your inforamtion helps me a lot act i am very new to that place week i am planning to visit BR Hills

  11. Amazing post on culture, art etc of India.DakshinaChitra has collaborated with Nalandaway to create DakshinaChitra Arts Lab to work with children from under privileged communities, who face economical and societal challenges. There are different Dakshinachitra timings for different events and activities.