Organization - Dakshina Chitra

Dakshina Chitra
Basic Information
English Dakshina Chitra
Local language
Country India
Category General NGO
Domain Oral Traditions and Expressions
Performing Arts
Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events
Knowledge and Practices Concerning Nature and the Universe
Traditional Craftsmanship
Function Research
Education and Training
Established year 1996
  • To show with the utmost authenticity the diverse cultures of South India through exhibitions, architecture, demonstrations and activities in order to create a higher level of awareness of and appreciation for the values and life styles and skills of the people of South India.
  • Organize special programs for children to increase their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of South India
  • To help foster crafts through craft development, design inputs, technology transfer and marketing so that the heritage of craft skills in the society continues.
  • To help to foster folk performing artists by having artists perform at the Centre and in schools in Chennai and in India and abroad.
  • To encourage research of a sound academic order as the basis for all work on architecture, exhibitions, archiving, audio visuals and programs taking place at the Centre
  • To act as a conscience on social issues affecting society with a goal to promote social harmony and to stimulate questioning through exhibitions and programs
  • To plan for cultural tourism
  • To keep open new ideas and to keep evolving in ways which keep the arts alive and relevant to contemporary society.

Dakshina Chitra is a heritage museum on the East Coast Road, 25 kms South of Chennai, midway between Chennai and Mamallapuram. Dakshina Chitra seeks to present the social culture and the rich and diverse heritage of South Indian people through their homes and lifestyles, crafts and performing arts. It began as an effort to bring the hidden wealth of South India to light – to set up an institution to celebrate the myriad cultures of the numerous people of Southern India. In an era when the old and traditional are vulnerable and challenged, this nucleus of an idea triggered a cultural journey. Inspired by the artisans of the villages, Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan, set out to form the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) in 1984 with the support of many volunteers and like-minded people.

The spatial conceptualization at Dakshina Chitra breathes Laurie Baker’s philosophy of empowering masons and craftspeople in the building process.  Benny Kuriakose, trained in the Laurie Baker style came to help along with his team of masons and carpenters.

Madras Craft Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization for the promotion of the art, architecture, craft and folk performing arts of South India.

Today Dakshina Chitra, a project of the Madras Craft Foundation, is a national museum, a “living” heritage centre with international standards, active and relevant in all its programs and deeply involved with the community it serves. Furthermore, Dakshina Chitra is an example of the positive synergy between the government and the private sector .

Major Activities

DakshinaChitra endeavors to aid directly in the communication and promotion of the rich and diverse cultures of India, with particular emphasis on the cultures of the people of the South.

Preservation and promotion of South India’s architectural heritage

At DakshinaChitra, 18th, 19th and early 20th century buildings, representative of the generic styles popular in a region and common for many villages and often for several communities have been identified, purchased and dismantled and reconstructed within the Centre.  The 18 historical houses represent distinct regional styles of building which were based on environment, available materials and prevailing social customs and needs.

Educational activities

Our programs help children to explore the past; learn and appreciate hand skills through participation in craft workshops, have exposure to different forms of folk performing arts, feel the joy and intensity of learning steps to the rhythms of the folk artists, experience the direct connection between culture and ecology, and study the concepts of science which are embedded in the arts and knowledge systems of the South.

Arts Management Education

The DakshinaChitra Internship on Museum Management (DAK-IMM) contributes to work-skills on the functioning of a living museum, while serving as a platform for generating and exchanging knowledge. It exposes the interns to working on the collective heritage of India, especially South India, covering tangible and intangible heritage – visual and performing arts, crafts, traditions and cultural practices.

A two year internship program for conservation train the interns to study conservation concepts under the experts and also practically work to restore and preserve objects, artifacts, textiles that belong to our collection under the guidance of senior conservators.

Music and Folk Performing Arts

DakshinaChitra is a special forum that introduces the rich variety of folk troupes of South India to the public. Through our special state and thematic festivals, folk performances from various regions of India are showcased.  The troupes are interviewed and their performances are recorded on video for our archives. DakshinaChitra also upgrades the skills and performances of many folk performing troupes by conducting residential training workshops using experts from related fields. DakshinaChitra is also a performance centre for special programs of music, dance and theatre.  Our outdoor amphitheater is a wonderful evening venue.

Friends of the Museum

DakshinaChitra has very vibrant and active ‘Friends of the Museum Association’ which does many fund raising programs and also hosts many of our cultural programs. An important one being the prestigious ‘Virudhu Award’ conferred on an artist and his troupe for their life time achievement in folk performing arts.


Craft promotion and craft development are our major goals. Traditional craft and textiles are exhibited throughout the Centre.  DakshinaChitra operates a fair trade craft shop with crafts purchased directly from artisans and NGOs. Our craft bazaar is a major direct marketing opportunity for many craftspeople from all over India.

Museum Collections and Management

The Museum collections of DakshinaChitra are primarily house hold objects used in homes in South India during the 18th, 19th and early 20thcenturies.  The collection also includes textiles, ritual objects from the South, early oleographs, prints and photographs, tribal paintings from all over India and contemporary art.  The historical houses themselves are the most prominent part of the collections.

Our Library and Archives

Our library and archives totaling 15,000 books and journals specializes in arts and culture of South India. Our collection of books, journals, photographs, videos and DVD documentations are freely available to the public for reference. An online catalogue is also available on our website.

Research, Seminars, Special Programs and Exhibitions

Research at DakshinaChitra focusses on written, photographic and video documentation of performers, artisans, craft processes, festivals and architecture.  Documentation projects focus on our exhibitions and events and the artisans and performers who are involved in these programs. Our museum collections, our specialized library and archives facilitate our goals in research and presentation.

Seminars and Workshops

DakshinaChitra holds international seminars as well as national and regional seminars and workshops.  International seminars are held in collaboration with foreign institutions, universities and individuals.  All seminars address issues pertinent to the arts and conservation.

Contemporary Art Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibitions of senior and upcoming artists are organized at our Varija and Kadambari galleries to introduce our visitors to many different ways artists interpret the world around us. Workshops and camps with contemporary and tribal artists are held regularly. These camps and gallery exhibitions have helped DakshinaChitra build its collection of contemporary art.


DakshinaChitra’s facilities include a Reception Centre with a Seminar Hall and a Craft Shop, a South Indian Restaurant and Mandapam, Guest House accommodation, an Activity Centre, Wedding Mandapam and Lawn Areas, Conference Rooms, a Children’s Play area, an Amphitheatre, a Picnic Area, a Conservation Laboratory, and an excellent library with photocopying facilities.

Contact Information (Organization)
Website www.dakshinachitra.netkfjdfj
Address DakshinaChitra, East Coast Road, Muttukadu, Kanchipuram District, Tamilnadu – 603112.
Tel 27472603, 9841425149
Fax 044-24914953

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