Visiting Dakshin Chitra – The Living Museum ( Serie 4)

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Dakshin Chitra, is a unique cultural museum of art, architecture, lifestyle showcasing broadly the various living themes prevalent in the four southern states of India namely Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu. In addition to this there are also various performing arts and related events organised all throughout the year with the emphasis on promoting the life style of these southern states of India.

The museum is spread out gracefully on a property located on the scenic East Coast Road, overlooking the Bay of Bengal at Muttukadu, 25 km from Chennai. I was fortunate enough to visit this place and frankly speaking totally loved the ambience and vibes of cultural significance that was prevalent in the property. There are a total of 18 authentic historical houses which showcase the history and living lifestyle of the four southern states. The unique feature is that these houses were purchased, dismantled, transported and reconstructed by the artisans in its entirety once again within Dakshin Chitra.

So, without much ado let me commence our journey through this unique aspect of Dakshin Chitra.

Tamil Nadu

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The state of Tamil Nadu, in my opinion a highly underrated state among the wide choices available to a traveler in India is a hidden gem of South India. The segment at Dakshin Chitra showcases three types of House/community lifestyles i.e. Merchant house, Chettinad, Sattanur. In addition, the segment also talks about the various landscapes that are prevalent in Tamil Nadu and the famous Kalamkari art in textiles.

Kalamkari Textiles

What is interesting to note is that for 1000 years, ports on the Coromandel coast facilitated trade from the Indian Subcontinent and here came in the textile trade. Indian cotton textiles were in demand all over the world for their superiority and fast colours and among these the most expensive and coveted were the Kalamkaris. The 1700 and 1800s were the golden year of the Kalamkari textile and it was used all over the world from China to Europe itself.

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Kalamkari is derived from the Persian word which implies art using a pen. The Kalamkari combined elements of block printing, hand painting as well as fine batik.

Lifestyle

Tamil Nadu Merchant House (from Kandanur Village, Ramnad Distt)

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The house is representative of the Nattukotai Chettairs, a merchant community. The unique constructional feature of this type of house is the external courtyard which serves as the congregation place for the men while the inner courtyard is for the women. It is often in the inner courtyards that marriages were done as well as important festivities was observed. The inner courtyard also had small double rooms all along which used to be used for sleeping purposes as well as stowage of religious items.

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The Nattukotai Chettairs prospered in the trading community and thereby transformed into bankers and became a prominent community within Tamil Nadu and these homes remained the most opulent homes within Tamil Nadu.

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Sattanaur House ( Sathanur house , Mayavaram Distt )

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 This house represents the lifestyle of the agriculturalists, especially around the Mayavaram and the Thanjavur distt. The house basically consists of two parallel courtyards, one of which was used for kitchen and eating while the other for bathing and ablutions. The front facing rooms were used as bed rooms while those at the back were for storing of vessels and grains. The rooms on the right were used for prayers as also housed the family deity.

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Landscapes of Tamil Nadu

The landscape in Tamil Nadu is basically divided into

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It is so unique to note that the communities adapted to the way the nature had evolved around them and they had built their existence on the way nature afforded them to without any change to the eco system while deriving the maximum advantage from what nature afforded.

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Ambur Art Gallery

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The Ambur art galley is also a must see and houses the religious art which has for ages influenced the entire fabric and eco system of Tamil Nadu.

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Kerala

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This iconic state on the Malabar coast of Indian subcontinent is famous world over for its backwaters and boat races. The state visited by millions of tourists is definitely a worth visit. The segment houses examples of Syrian Christian house, Puthupally house, Koothatukulam house.

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Syrian Christian House (Kottayam Distt)

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This house is an example of the era of the Travancore section of Kerala. the basic feature of this house is its layout with the entrance of the house leading into the granary. Prayers were conducted in front of the granary. There is also a living section, a separate dining in room and kitchen. The Syrian Christian house represents the culture of Kerala Christians this house represents the 19 century houses found in the Kottayam district where the Syrian Christians had settled. The inhabitants used to basically deal in trade of indigenous commodities. the house was built of built of wood which was most preferred building commodity.

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Koothatukulam house

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The Koothatukulam house has notable British influences in its construction which included wooden arches in addition to granaries at the ground level. The Syrian house influence too is visible, and this is evident in its construction.

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Puthupullay House 

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Karnataka.

One of the most beautiful states in the Indian subcontinent having in tis kitty just about everything be it perennial forests , mighty rivers, mountain ranges coupled with an age old vibrant history of mankind.

The house design which has been showcased at Dakshin Chitra is of the Muslim House from the Aldur district.

Aldur House.

The Aldur house primarily draws inspiration from the palaces of the Vijayanagar as well as the Deccan sultanate especially with regard to the intricate stucco and stone work. The house consisted of the large hall which was used by the menfolk for entertaining while the kitchen was in the back along with the women quarters. The Sleeping area was in the first floor as was the prevalent custom in those times.

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Lambanis of Karnataka

One of the most visible communities of Karnataka, the Lambani women in their brightly made costumes have been the source of many trends in clothing over the years. The Lambanis live in hamlets called Tandas in the outskirts of the villages having their traditional house made of e mud and thatches with no windows. The Lambanis were mainly cattle transporters who used to transport grain and salt in those times and were an important part of the community.

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Andhra Pradesh

The tenth most popular state of India , Andhra Pradesh is yet another fine example of classic Indian art and tradition. The state has the second largest coastline and is endowed with nature’s abundance . I unfortunately do not have visuals as my phone decided to exhaust its battery by this point of time.

I hope this article did incite interest for those who visit Chennai to make a trip to this wonderful place and spend some time savoring the effort and time taken by the organizers to recreate this masterpiece.

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