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.
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.
a women demonstrating basket weaving with palm leafs in a weavers home
A potters home, here you can try your hand at making pottery with the potters wheel