If you want to step back in time and walk through a quaint landscape of streets lined with traditional South Indian homes, you have got to visit DakshinaChitra. It is an ode to the heritage, culture, architecture of South India for generations to come, a grand effort by the Madras Cultural Foundation (MCF). About 17 heritage houses were acquired, dismantled and relocated. MCF has gone a step further and imbibed the cultural & traditional contexts in each home.
It is interesting to see how the socio-economic and religious needs of the community are imbibed in traditional architecture, for example an agrarian’s home having plenty of room for storing grains, a large courtyard with ample sunlight; a trader’s home with a front verandah and large seating space to conduct meetings and talk to visitors and a brahmin’s home with space for performing spiritual offerings and pujas.
The overriding simplicity in all these homes is hard to miss. Yet the attention to detail and utility are remarkable. My favorite elements in the architecture and decor include the combination of wooden doors, carved stone pillars, mostly white-washed walls and the eclectic white and red paint stripes and blue doors in some of these homes.
DakshinaChitra is a remarkable endeavour and a great reminder of the stunning, diverse and unique architectural and cultural traditions of South India; from a Nattukotti Chettiar’s home, a Tirunelveli brahmin home in Tamil Nadu to Syrian Christian home from Kerala; an Ilkal and Kanjeevaram weavers home – it is a spell-binding voyage.
A gorgeous hand carved stone deity of Lord Shiva; open spaces in Dakshinachitra and a lovely wooden door
Door details, Lord Ganesha at the entrance of a Nattukottai Chettiar home
A nook for the umbrella; a lovely door handle and a vast courtyard with luxuriant space to hold discussions in the Chettiar home
Entrances with kollam; door details; a splash of red and white columns
Brass & copper deity of Lord Vishnu with a beautiful green patina formed over tens of decades; a beautiful display of Murugan on his peacock and the entrance to a Brahmin household with the courtyard at the back
An educative display of wall with elements of puja; the astrologist’s corner; and a gorgeous lamp that has aged over the years; all on a wall painted red with its accompanying white walls
Earthy hues in an agriculturist’s home,’ a hearth; lots of sunlight pouring in the courtyard and implements sitting idle
A corner designated for cradles; kitchen implements and measuring wares in the agriculturalist’s home
An artisan makes some glass stirrers for me in a matter of a few minutes. Makes magic, more like it. I got the elephant and the sea-horse, and wish I had bought some more…
Splendid homes with white walls, sloping terracota roofs, courtyards. *Wish* these were not such a vanishing/vanished tribe. I’d personally like one, with a courtyard please
Carved wonders; wooden magic and a pondering kitty in a Syrian Christian household in Kerala
Sloping roofs, blue pillars, white walls, a sit-out, a courtyard and… a perfect home
A North Karnataka home converted to a weaver ‘s workshop and a traditional North Karnataka kitchen
A Kanjeevaram saree and its master weaver on the loom. Hand loom weaving and its slow and steady vanishing act…
A beautiful wooden chariot from a temple; the holy basil basking in ts courtyard under the sun; pottery wares sitting out in the sun too and a lovely mute mustard wall of a Mangalore-style home
Brass utensils and a kitchen from a bygone era; a motor and pestle of a different kind; Gods sit pretty; a blue window and its brass utensil friends
A nook for a lamp and pottery of a different
A display of various kinds of handwoven sarees from across South India
My love for doors just got bigger. And better.
If you are in Chennai and have half a day at hand or if you are driving to Pondicherry on East Coast Road, you know where to stop to feast your eyes. DakshinaChitra also has a restaurant with a minimalistic South Indian menu – just what you need for a stop on the highway!