Need for Cultural Continuity
THE HERITAGE VILLAGE project was born out of an intense concern for the restoration and conservation of centuries-old vernacular structures of architectural merit and craft importance and also for the preservation of traditional objects of art and craft besides elegant artefacts of yesteryears.
The entire concept is based on the Trust's conviction that art, craft and architectural traditions are integral to our cultural continuity. The sudden introduction of modern architecture and new products of consumerism has created a total schism with India’s built heritage and her cultural traditions. The whole crisis lies in the fact that when a society loses its sense of identity with its past, and therefore its pride in itself, it is deprived of a sense of judgement of values. And, for this reason, it is essential that some perception of continuity be maintained. The Hasta Shilpa Trust believes that traditional buildings are the most powerful visual symbols of heritage and, if they are left to decay or are destroyed there will be no tangible link connecting the generations to come with their roots.
Dilapidated structures and their destruction:
During its research-based survey of the material culture of Karnataka in particular and India in general in the last three decades of the last century, the Trust found that there was a systematic destruction of a large number of traditional houses and other structures of heritage value. Most of the house-structures that the Trust surveyed were built from the 14th century A.D. to the 19th century A.D. and they were in an advanced state of decay, while a few of them were actually on the verge of collapse.
With the breaking up of the joint family system in India and migration of the rural educated youth to major cities for employment, these manor houses which were mostly situated in villages had necessarily to be maintained by just a couple of elderly members of the family who continued to live in them. As they could not afford to maintain the upkeep of their age-old houses, these structures started falling apart; and the family members planned to pull down their wood-rich structures to make way for small-size modern structures on the same land using cement and steel, glass and paint. Despite attempts by the Trust to persuade house-owners to restore the original structures after replacement of damaged and spoiled materials, there was little enthusiasm to do so. Several opted to rebuild their heritage homes in the new mode of urban architecture which never harmonised with their rural surroundings.
Decaying works of art and craft:
The state of condition of traditional arts, crafts and artefacts was no different from that of traditional buildings. Due to lethargic attitude of the people, a large number of traditional Indian paintings, sculptures, bronze icons, wooden idols, stone statues and household articles of the past ages were left to neglect. Most of these works were lying in decaying state in the manor houses of the landed gentry as well as in temples, folk-deity shrines, monasteries and rural palaces. If these traditional works of art and objects of craft are allowed to vanish from our midst they will be lost to posterity.
Plan of action:
To alleviate the crisis, the Hasta Shilpa Trust acquired several rare specimens of heritage buildings as well as traditional works of art and craft from their owners and relocated them within the sprawling complex in Manipal. The Government of India’s southern state of Karnataka granted six acres of prime land for the project, termed the Heritage Village.
The whole exercise of relocation of a traditional building involves several processes like documentation of the concerned structure through measured drawings and visuals; coding of each component of the structure prior to its dismantling; and restoration of the damaged portion of the structure before reconstruction. We have so far restored as many as 26 vernacular structures which include historical buildings and craft-rich structures. A project of this magnitude is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process which requires to be executed with meticulous care. We have the satisfaction of having carried out this task in the best manner possible. All the 26 structures have been restored to their original form and character in the Heritage Village.
What we strive to promote through this conservation project is not revivalism, rather cultural continuity by blending the past with the modern particularly in the design and construction of new functional structures. By designing such structures we hope to be able to stimulate creativity among the successive generations of architects and builders.
It is not the conservation of traditional buildings alone that is important. The age-old furniture, metalware utensils, ritual objects and other household articles as also royal heirlooms that were earlier used within these buildings have been displayed in appropriate places in the respective buildings. Thus, we have been able to recreate the period and depict the lifestyle and culture of different communities in various geographical locations over several periods of history.
Apart from the traditional buildings, we have also created thirteen museums and art galleries, constructed four functional structures and reconstructed four modest-sized traditional shrines.
With the funding support provided by a couple of European governments and other foreign and Indian bodies, the Hasta Shilpa Trust was able to execute its project of Heritage Village over six acres of land in Manipal.
I. Heritage Structures that were relocated in the Heritage Village:
A. The following 15 heritage structures, which were in ruins in different parts of Karnataka, were acquired, restored and reconstructed in their original form and character in the Heritage Village:
2.Hungarcutta Bansaale mane
3.Jungam Mutt of Puchchamogaru
6.Vidyamandira of Ramchandrapura Mutt
7.Kamal Mahal of Kukanoor
8.Deccani Nawab Mahal
11.Mangalore Christian House
12.Bhatkal Navayath Muslim House
14.Mudhol Palace Durbar Hall
15.Hengavalli Korra House
B. The following 13 museums and Art Galleries were set up:
1.Museum of Traditional Paintings
2.Museum of Arts and Crafts
3.Museum of Folk Arts
4.Museum of Thanjavoor Paintings
5.Gallery of Cultural Legacy of Raja Ravi Varma
6.Museum of Contemporary Arts
7.K.K.Hebbar Gallery of works of art, serigraph prints and archival materials.
8.Gallery of Paintings by Sam Adaikalasamy
9.G.Reghu Gallery of Ceramic and Terracotta Sculptures
10.Museum of Ganjifa Art
12.Basel Mission Museum of Terracotta Products
13.Museum of Children’s Playthings and other artefacts
C. The following four each functional structures and traditional shrines were built:
1.Central Library and Archive (housed in the British Colonial Bungalow)
2.Documentation Centre (housed in Miyar House)
3.Publications Division (Peshwa Wada)
4.Administrative Block (Koni Karanth’s original house)
5.Harihara Mandir (Nirugunda-Kodagu)
6.Mahavishnu Mandir (Karnire)
7.Khadga Rama Shrine (Ulluru)
8.Bhavya Durgi Shrine (Ulluru)
D. As part of the streetscape, bazaars of crafts and workshops of artisans in different traditional occupations were laid all along the roads in the Heritage Village.
II. Works of other Museums/Galleries yet to be undertaken:
1.Museum of Textiles.
2.Museum of Folk Paintings
3.Museum of Gond Paintings by Jangarh Singh Shyam and his family members of Bhopal.
4.Gallery of Paintings by R. Sundararaju.
5.Gallery of Drawings by Narendra Babu and other artists.
6.Gallery of Graphic Arts by various artists.
7.Museum of B.V.Karanth’s Collection of Musical Instruments.