Take some time the next time you're in Chennai or Mamallapuram to visit the DakshinaChitra Museum. Launched on December 14, 1996, it is a living museum of the heritage, culture, art and crafts of five states of South India. Through the exhibits, the museum aims to preserve and showcase the inclusive cultures of these states in an interactive manner that engages with visitors.
The name translates to "a picture of the South." A project of the Madras Craft Foundation, the museum is located at Muttukadu on the East Coast Road, overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Indian culture showcased here is the architecture of traditional houses and homes. Around 18 traditional homes have been relocated here from different parts of South India. They are now part of the museum's interactive experience; visitors can walk through the homes and immerse themselves in the traditional lifestyles of South India's many communities that make it such an interesting melting pot. For instance, among the displayed homes is a Syrian Christian house from Kerala with furniture and kitchen utensils that are used by the community. A 1914 house from Chikmagalur showcases the culture of the Muslim community of Karnataka.
The Ilkal Weaver’s house is also from Karnataka and sports an entrance leading to a front courtyard paved with stones. Elements like the woodwork, windows and stones are from the Ilkal region.
In November 2022, the museum added two new projects that will showcase Calicut and Kodava architecture.
The museum space is also designed in such a way that it reflects the traditional elements of a home here - from landscaped courtyards to several open spaces that let in light and fresh air, and verandahs to hang around in. The complex houses a food court serving traditional cuisine which also showcases elements like a bamboo mat ceiling that keeps the space cool and the high Mangalore tiled roof which is held up by a system of rafters and beams.
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Watch out for the many interesting events that are hosted by the museum - they post about them in social media or on their website. These include workshops on ceramics, puppet shows, art shows, etc. On weekends they have art and craft activities such as traditional leather puppet shows, glass blowing demos, and you can also play traditional board games.
The museum offers weekend courses on folk performance (both theory and practical classes) on several dance forms of Tamil Nadu such as Thappattam, Oyilattam, Devarattam, and Silambattam.
The craft shop at the museum is a great place to pick up traditional jewellery or décor items and toys. They host craft bazaars regularly where you can see craftspeople from villages at work and pick up handicraft products.
Address: East Coast Road, Muttukadu, Chengalpet District – 600 118. Nearest landmark: Next to MGM Dizee World.
The museum is open from 10am to 6pm every day, except Tuesdays. It is also open on all national holidays except on Diwali.
Entry fees differ for Indian and international visitors. For the latest info, visit the website: https://www.dakshinachitra.net/