Dakshina Chitra – A Vision of South India

On Chennai’s East Coast Road, which stretches from the city’s outskirts to Mahabalipuram and beyond, approximately 20 kms from the city, a simple yellow board with a neat red arrow points you to a turning on the left indicating the location of Dakshina Chitra. The word ‘Dakshina’ meaning ‘South’ and ‘Chitra’ one of its many meanings indicating ‘Art’. Dakshina Chitra is a non-profit project of the Madras Craft Foundation and its aim is to showcase and preserve the culture of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andra Pradesh.

A few friends of mine from Bangalore and Hyderabad landed in Chennai yesterday and we eagerly made plans to visit and spend several hours at Dakshina Chitra (DC) . It was a typically warm and sticky early summer day in Chennai and we were very glad when we found that DC had natural shade thanks to the many trees that dotted the landscape. Each South Indian state’s unique architecture, craft, art and lifestyle are showcased in an authentic setting with stone pathways leading to each State’s section. For instance, in the Tamil Nadu section there were various types of houses each of which were painstakingly recreated using original parts from an authentic house. Thus a potter’s house sat differently from a weaver’s house which in turn was different from a brahmin house and so on. The central piece was a beautiful Chettinad mansion with its ornate wood door, strong and carved pillars, and a central courtyard.


Each state had its own houses to welcome and its own fascinating handicrafts to woo visitors and we moved from section to section with a sense of wonder and amazement while the camera focused on one inviting frame after another. We spent a couple of hours in the late morning visiting Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu before breaking off for lunch. DC has a restaurant – Kaanal – that serves South Indian buffet. The meal consisted of a simple fare of chapatis, kurma, rice, sambar, rasam, poriyal, curd and payasam. Post-lunch we rested in a cool Kerala house until the sleepiness vanished and then explored Kerala’s beautiful houses. When we walked out of the DC complex around 4pm, we were a tired but satisfied bunch of buddies.

Quick Pointers:
a) DC is about 20kms from Chennai city
b) Entry ticket for an adult is priced at Rs.50
c) It takes roughly an hour to explore each section – DC is a half-day visit
d) Lunch costs Rs.125/person. Ideally, unless you are really starved, lunch elsewhere would be a good option
e) There are a few Mineral Water drinking stations but you are better off with your own water bottle
f) Take battery back-up for your camera. Just in case you forgot to charge the main one like me :)
g) Private transport is probably the best way to get to and leave from DC

Visit strongly recommended!

3 Comments so far

  1. Ravages (unregistered) on March 20th, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

    Yes, I’ve visited DC myself quite a few times. Can recommend it to anybody. I particularly like their amphitheatre are. Real good…a bunch of us friends spent a night in DC, and had a great karoke and antakshari session in the amphi-theatre

  2. Lavanya (unregistered) on March 26th, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    Right – I love that amphitheatre too. Isn’t that the one that was used in Phir Milenge?

    I forgot to mention that there are guest houses and wedding mandapams at DC.

  3. Shalini (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 6:37 pm

    Nice personal profile!
    On ECR…a visit to Alampara is a must – the Dutch fort (or the remains, if you can call the few bricks there, that)

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