The Hasta Shilpa Trust, Manipal, has taken up the task of preserving heritage buildings
The interior of the renovated Kunjur Chowkimane at The Heritage Village.
AT A time when heritage buildings are making way for new glass-front facades, the Hasta Shilpa Trust, Manipal, has taken up the task of preserving old buildings by conceptualising a new project called The Heritage Village.
A journey through the Heritage Village is one into the past as the restored houses reflect the legacy of the period in which they were built, and are a symbol of the superb craftsmanship of those times. They are also mute witness to the social and economic prosperity of the past and gradual decline that followed.
Vijayanath Shenoy, the brain behind The Heritage Village and founder-secretary of the Trust, has put in a lot of hard work to realise the dream of his. On its origin, he says that while touring the State in the 1970s, he saw many old buildings that were sold or dismantled for reasons such as the enactment of the Land Reforms Bill, the break-up of joint families, and migration of rural youth to urban areas. He felt that if these houses were dismantled, one more legacy of a way of life would be lost. Thus was born Heritage Village.
Since it was difficult to restore these buildings in their original locations, they were relocated to the sprawling six-acre site. From its inception in 1998 as many as 24 buildings have been relocated here. These include the Hungarcutta Bansale Mane, the Veerashaiva Jungama Math, the Kunjur Chowkimane, the Vidyamandira (or pontiff's residence) of the Ramachandrapura Math, the Sringeri House, the Byndoor Nelyadi house, the Yerkone House, the Harkur Oolaginamane and the Kamal Mahal of Kukanoor. The most recent addition is the Old Durbar Hall of the Mudhol Palace belonging to the Ghorpades, which was restored here on January 16.
The Bansale Mane, built at the port of Hungarcutta, on the Arabian Sea in Udupi taluk, which has been restored at the Heritage Village, was a trade centre-cum-warehouse-cum-residence. In earlier times, transport by water was the chief means by which trade was carried out, and the Bansale Mane, which was built near the sea and rivers was the chief trade centre-cum-residential house of the merchants who promoted trade in the region. The goods, which were brought from West Asia and other countries, were unloaded from the ships at a point where the river met the sea, and from there, they were brought in boats to the Bansale Mane.
The first portion of the Hungarcutta Bansale Mane comprises the corporate office of the merchants. It is very stylish, and has a Treasury Room. There are arrangements for the merchants to stay in the first floor of the house.
Another building, the Kunjur Chowkimane, a 180-year-old house built in Kerala style at a village in Kunjur near Admar, has been restored here. It belonged to a priestly Shivalli Brahmin family, and it can comfortably accommodate a joint family. As much as 3,500 cubic feet of quality timber was used in the construction. To prevent corrosion, no nails were used. The mud plastering of the house keeps it cool. It has an ornate ceiling besides inbuilt handles to hang vegetables like gourds to enhance their longevity.
A ventilated grain storeroom is on the first floor of the house above the kitchen, the reason being that the smoke from the kitchen can reach the grains through the ventilators to keep the grains pest free. The house has an attic, where utensils, which were not used daily were stored. Shenoy says it took five months to document the house before dismantling it, and its restoration was a Herculean task.
The Harkur Oolaginamane, a 400-year-old building belonging to an agrarian Bunt family, which was originally located at Harkur in Kundapur taluk, has been restored here. This house has 11 drum-shaped columns, called Maddale Kamba. It has a modest interior, and its elaborate exterior reflects the lifestyle of the Bunts of that period.
Another beautiful building, which has been restored, is the 500-year-old Kamal Mahal of Kukunoor near Koppal. A vassal king of the Vijayanagar Empire built the house. This building has a durbar hall in the front and the king's chamber at the back. The house has beautiful classical ornate wooden carvings.
The Veerashaiva Jangama Math was a 700-year-old structure in a dilapidated condition in an isolated area at Puchamogaru, 12 km from Moodbidri. The wooden beams, which were destroyed by years of neglect, have been replaced in this restored building. But the pattern and design of old wooden structures have been incorporated into the new wooden beams.
The Trust is organising a national seminar on Aspects of Physical Culture and Heritage Conservation with a focus on the Trust's Heritage Village Project at Manipal today and tomorrow.
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