If you are a lover of heritage houses, ancient culture, folklore and traditional arts and crafts, DakshinaChitra is the place for you. Located about 25 km from the metro city of Chennai, this centre has been open since 1996 and is managed by the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF). Modeled on the lines of a cultural village, the attraction, whose name literally translates as “picture of the South“, is an open air museum that gives you an authentic picture of the yesteryear life in South India.
It is here that you savor some unique experiences including taking a tour of some ancestral South Indian houses, play traditional board games, try your hand at the potter’s wheel, witness basket weaving and enjoy an unconventional puppet show.
A visit to the centre is an insight into the art, architecture, crafts, customs, culture and traditions of South India.
Spread over 10 acres, the centre has 18 heritage houses from the four South Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. We were given to understand that these were actual houses that were scheduled for demolition by the original owners but were bought out by MCF. These were subsequently systematically dismantled, transported and recreated retaining all their original features.
There are multiple houses belonging to each state, depicting various facets of rural life, of which I absolutely loved the vernacular houses of weavers, potters as well as agriculturists. The architecture, design and the layouts of these traditional abodes is truly fascinating. The best part has to be the fact that the furniture and artifacts part of these homes are also carefully curated to depict the days gone by.
There are also models of people in these homes, in action so you can get a great insight into the days of yore.
The museum with more than 4000 artifacts on display has some really unique collections pertaining to the art, craft, folklore of South India. Items used in daily life were my favorites especially the various kinds of articles used during worship, vessels and kitchenware.
It is truly an engaging day trip with various facilities like a restaurant, library, resource center and a crafts bazaar. You can shop for a wide variety of souvenirs from the outlet here. However what caught my attention were the makeshift stores that are present through the place selling interesting art and craft pieces that make for interesting souvenirs.
This is a complete family destination which much to do for kids, whether it is trying their hand at pottery or learn a craft. An in house restaurant also dishes out some delectable fare. The centre even offers workshops in crafts like painting, pottery and jewelry making.
Just make sure you keep aside a few hours to explore the place in its entirety. This is a trip down memory lane and one that you will not forget in a hurry!