Gone are the days that Chennai had verry little to offer to the tourists. A visit to kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram was included in the itinerary of the tourists to show atleast few interesting places around the state capital. Interestingly,the story is different now.. People take the upgraded I.T Corridor on weekends to visit places enroute to Mahabalipuaram. My attention was drawn recently on a Cultural centre for Art & Culture some 28km from Chennai spread on a vast land about 0.5 km from the sea on the highway. This centre is named as "Dhakshin Chitra" where you find reflections of the four southern states of India.
The idea of forming a centre must have been the result of generous contributions from Industrial sector. A big board at the reception gives the names of these companies. The entry into the centre is by tickets and they also give you a location map of the site that exhibits the cultural values of four southern states of India. The state of Tamilnadu has many things to delight the visitors. You can virtually see a colony in front of you and enter into each house. Karaikudi house known for its pillars,woodwork , strong walls and kitchenware is there to watch.
A weaver was seen weaving a sari in the conventional hand operated machine and the colour combination selected was superb. This gives an opportunity for the tourists to learn personnaly all about weaving and ask any questions to the weaver. Some foreigners were watching closely how the potter was making a pot out of mud. Surprisingly the potter allowed one of the visitors to do the pot himself and of course,he was always there to correct the mistakes easily.
A Brahmin's house is a replica of whatever is seen inside the traditional houses of Brahmins. The items used for doing Puja were amazing.The displays included all those antique items and care has been taken not to include anything which do not reflect the art & craft of that period.
Another hall has some sculptures and bronzes while a puppet show (in the form of shadows) is also presented .The show is not continuous but there are some fixed timings which we come to know from the pamphlet given at the gate. The show was on for about 15-20 minutes and a scene from Kishkintha Kaanda of Ramayana was presented.
Then we moved on to Kerala pavilion which presented replicas of a Hindu House and Christian House with wooden roof that truly represented the culture of Kerala. Few paintings of Raja ravivarma was also on display.The breathtaking structure of the house presented the mastery of the makers.
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are still in the process of expanding their cultural exhibits and whatever is ready now is too little.I am sure they have much more to offer.
The centre has a Library and stalls that sell finely carved items.
While the effort needs to be appreciated by one and all, the misssed opportunities can be cited to draw the attention of organisers. Live demonstration of the making of Thanjavur Veena,Flute,Nadaswaram,Thavil is not there now which can thrill the visitors. An expert who can draw pictures based on Thanjavur paintings can be included to explain the salient features of the art.When we talk about Art, Dance should also form a part of it. Bharathanatyam,the famous dance of the land should have a place in the centre. The development of Music can be explained with the help of audio and video shows instead of just selling the casettes. Artisans can demonstrate how to make panchaloka idol and carvings on a stone.
At the outset,we must be satisfied that the attention is drawn towards arts and crafts.But we should think something beyond the exhibition of the past. Saving each Fine art from dying is perhaps needed most urgently. There are nobody to play instruments like Panchamukavadyam,ekkalam etc. Next generation is not either interested or taught about these instruments. I have seen playing Ekkalam during procession of deities in Temple festivals during my childhood. It is almost missing now and the organizers should see that the age old practice is brought back. It is my desire to locate the person who can play Ekkalam in my native place. Finding a sponsor for him is not difficult these days.But to find a player itself is difficult.