Continuing the series on weekend breaks from metros………this time it is from Madras or Chennai…….
What do you do when you are stuck in concrete jungles a.k.a our metros and want to get a dose of culture and experience rural milieu?
You are lucky if you are staying in Madras or Chennai as is being called now. When we talk about Chennai, the fist thing that comes to mind is Marina beach or Carnatic music and of course Tamil movies. You can also spend a lazy afternoon exploring the great heritage of South India and linger on the less crowded beach.
For that you head to East Coast Road for a nice drive – not sure it is the same east coast road of yesteryear when it was pleasure to drive and pay a visit to Dakshina Chitra – the open air architectural heritage museum of South India. The place oozes rustic charm and brings out the best in vernacular architectural heritage of the region.
Spare two hours to go through the place. More if you want to deeply explore the art and architecture. The place has been lovingly built by Madras Craft foundation. We visited the place first time when it had just thrown open the doors and keep doing so whenever we cross it during our journeys on the east coast. Some surprises await us every time we go there. Today, the place is not only the hub for architectural heritage, it has become a cultural hub as well.
By Road – You can catch city bus plying between Chennai and Dakshina Chitra. These are some of the buses, which ply from Chennai city.
Some bus routes that will take you to Dakshina Chitra are:
· From Poonamalee: PP49 via K.K.Nagar
· From Parry’s Corner: 188A, 118, PP19, 19E and19G
· From KK Nagar: PP49, 19
· From Valsaravakkam: PP49
If you are driving or hiring a taxi it is a one-hour drive to the centre.
By Train – There are no train services.
Best time to visit – Winters are the best season to visit East coast of India. Sun will be fiercest between 11 AM and 3 PM.
a) It will be good to leave early in the morning when the sun has not come up and be there when Dakshina Chitra opens. You can have breakfast on the way in any of the restaurants on East coast road.
b) Don’t go to Dakshina Chitra as a sight seeing tourist. Do it leisurely savoring the ambience. Try and understand the architecture and get some cultural insights behind the architectural design of these houses.
c) Check out the timings for folk dance and puppetry shows in the centre. You can plan your visit accordingly.
d) The famous Crocodile Conservation centre of Madras Crocodile Park as it is popularly known is close by. You can club this along with the visit to Dakshina Chitra.
e) Many theme parks cluttered East Coast Road. If you are going with kids visiting any of them will not be a bad option.
f) You can watch master craftsmen making pottery, glass ware etc.
g) Dakshina Chitra also conducts workshops and course in art, architecture and culture. You can visit their website for more details.
h) The centre is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. There is a small entry fee. You can check that on their website.
i) You can also go around the craft centre and buy some exclusive crafts there.
j) Dakshina Chitra can also be a good stopover if you are driving to Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry from Chennai.
k) The centre also has a restaurant which serve light eats.
For those who are interested in vernacular architecture and heritage homes of south india, there is another amazing place near Manipal in Karnataka. This is called Hasta Shilpa Heritage village, a brain child of Mr Vijayanath Shenoy.
Unfortunately it is not open to public now and only research students and donors are allowed entry. For more details check out the link below.
Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village, Manipal
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