An exhibit in the museum
|Established||14 December 1996|
|Location||East Coast Road, Muttukadu, Chennai, India|
DakshinaChitra is a museum in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu dedicated to South Indian heritage and culture. It is located 25 kilometres (16 mi) to the south of Chennai. The museum was founded and is being managed by the Madras Craft Foundation. It was first opened to the public on 14 December 1996. Exhibits in the museum portray the living beliefs of art, folk performing-arts, craft and architecture of India, in particular of South Indian traditions.
Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan, an Indian art historian of American origin, founded an NGO, the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF), in 1984, to govern the museum. It is built on a 10 acres (4.0 ha) land taken on a 33-year lease from the Government of Tamil Nadu. The museum, developed as a heritage village, has an array of displays depicting the unique life pattern of Indians in the states of South India.
DakshinaChitra, meaning "a picture of the south", was founded by the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF), an NGO started in 1984, by Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan. Thiagarajan, an Indian art historian of American origin, had come to Madras (now Chennai) in 1970 and visited several rural villages in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. She founded the MCF in 1984 with the intent of preserving the regional culture and heritage. Six years later, in July 1991, the MCF received 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land for the project from the Government of Tamil Nadu on a 33-year lease. The museum had also received grants from various governmental ministries and organisations such as the Ministry of Textiles, Ministry of Culture and the Ford Foundation. DakshinaChitra was formally opened for public viewing on 14 December 1996.
British-born Indian architect Laurie Baker volunteered his services with the spatial conceptualizing of the layout of the museum with special emphasis on giving the artisans free space in building it. Benny Kuriakose, an assistant of Baker's, designed the public buildings and was responsible for the re-creation, conservation, and supervision of the heritage house buildings.
The museum has been received positively by the tourism industry.
DakshinaChitra is a heritage village where the unique lifestyle of South Indians is revived based on their states. The center occupies ten undulating acres overlooking the Bay of Bengal, at Muttukadu, 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of Chennai, on the East Coast Road to Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India.
The museum showcases 18 heritage houses representing the living styles of people from the states of South India such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, North Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. These houses are recreated from a bevy of architecture students, carpenters and workers set about measuring, photographing and carefully dismantling the house; original houses which were allowed to be demolished by the original owners in their villages/towns. The original houses in their "vernacular style" were purchased by MCF (reportedly purchased at costs varying from Rs. 50,000 for ordinary mud houses to Rs. 1.5 million for the Chettinad Merchant’s mansions with crafted doors and woodwork) and then demolished systematically under the guidance of stapathis (architects) of the particular villages for recreation in its exact original form at the museum by the same architect. The houses are said to represent mostly the Chettiar themes of the Nattukkottai Chettiars who have been in the forefront of conservation and restoration and renovation of public edifices. This has been an issue of criticism in some circles, particularly on the aspect of replication of per-indusrial rural life. It has also been criticized that the museum represents "American Consumerism".
The artefacts in the museum reflect the daily life in the Southern States. As of 2014, there were 4,220 artefacts on display; 3,200 are art related, 950 are clothing (typical South Indian attire of females and males in cotton and silk fabrics and furnishings) and 70 pertain to contemporary aspects.
The museum is not only interesting from the tourist angle but also from the educational aspect as it provides information of the architectural features of rural houses. The entire display and presentation is in the English language, and highlights the cultural aspects of the high status of Brahminical people.
Visitors may take a tour around DakshinaChitra visiting all the heritage homes; try art and craft activities; play traditional games; and view exhibitions that explain some of the rich traditions of South India.
The museum runs a center for living traditions of art, folk performing arts, and crafts set up with the objective of preserving and promoting the rich heritage and culture of South India. Potters trained at this center are issued a certificate of their upgraded skills by the regional office of the Department of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts). Conceptualizing South Indian heritage homes, set in folk art tradition, the heritage museum holds special programmes of dances, crafting of necklaces, basket weaving, puppet shows and so forth. Every year 15,000 school children visit the museum.
There is an open air theater where cultural programmes and yoga classes are held.
Authentic Indian crafts, art, textiles, jewelry and other interesting gifts are available at the Craft Shop located just inside the entrance. There is also a Craft Bazaar located inside the park-like grounds which includes several handmade items, many of which are made at the location as the viewers watch the artisans at work. The craftsmen and women will be happy to demonstrate or explain how they make their wares, all of which come from South India (mostly Tamil Nadu). Food (lunch and snacks) can be had at the restaurant Bekal.
- "What we do". DakshinaChitra Museum Organization. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Krithika Reddy (21 September 2006). "'We need people with a public vision'". The Hindu.
- "Heart in heritage". The Hindu. 27 June 2007.
- "Dakshinachitra: A labour of love". Rediff. 17 March 2006. p. 2.
- "Dakshinachitra: A labour of love". Rediff. 17 March 2006. p. 3.
- Lakshmi Viswanathan (20 March 2000). "Fostering culture in her own way". The Hindu.
- "Dakshinachitra – A Rare Museum". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- "About DakshinaChitra". Official web site of the museum. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Hancock 2008, p. 246.
- "Library and Archives". DakshinaChitra Museum Organization. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Programme 2004, p. 42.
- Link & Ramanathan 2010, p. 42.
- Fernandez 2004, p. 210-11.
- "Open Air Theatre". DakshinaChitra Museum Organization. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Craft Shop". DakshinaChitra Museum Organization. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Restaurant". DakshinaChitra Museum Organization. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Fernandez, Joseph (8 December 2004). Corporate Communications: A 21st Century Primer. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-9746-7.
- Hancock, Mary E. (29 October 2008). The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-00265-6.
- Link, Rosemary J.; Ramanathan, Chathapuram S. (16 September 2010). Human Behavior in a Just World: Reaching for Common Ground. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4422-0292-4.
- Programme, United Nations Human Settlements (2004). The State of the World's Cities 2004/2005: Globalization and Urban Culture. UN-HABITAT. ISBN 978-92-1-131705-3.
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