In this era, when the traditional and customary artisans are helpless and challenged, an effort was made by Dr. Deborah Thiagrajan, to bring to life this hidden art of South India. An institution was set up to celebrate the countless cultures of numerous artisans of the villages. A cultural journey gave birth to the Madras Craft Foundation in the year 1984.
MCF is a non-profit organization and Dakshina Chitra was imagined to be its main project. The board members also shared the thoughts of Dr. Thiagarajan. The volunteers as well as the financial supporters from the Madras society along with everyone linked with MCF chased this dream with firmness and willpower.
Ford Foundation Grant was received by MCF in 1988 for research and learning. In 1991, the Government of Tamil Nadu presented a long stretch of land. Subsequently, grant was offered by the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts to build Dakshina Chitra. Many donations were received from different industries. In this way slowly and steadily the center shaped into reality and was opened to public on December, 1996.
The famous architect Laurie Baker and Benny Kuriakose graciously contributed their services to MCF. They have designed a well planned Dakshina Chitra building by employing skilled masons and craftsmen. The center at Muttukadu is spread over ten undulating acres that overlook the Bay of Bengal. From south of Chennai it is at a distance of 25 km.
Educational programs are carried out at the Dakshina Chitra to develop the knowledge and admiration of South India’s cultural heritage.
Folk performing artists and artisans are the two cultures that are being revived at Dakshina Chitra. The promotion and development of craft are major goal of the center. Traditional craft and fabrics are displayed throughout the center.
More than a decade MCF has been making direct marketing arrangement to give great opportunities for craftsmen through plans that is supported by the Development Commissioner of the handicraft department. The center also offers direct marketing arrangement at their craft bazaar and their craft shop.
The traditional folk dances of South India have been greatly challenged by films, televisions and the changing lifestyles. Traditional folk dances were awfully popular and performed during the festivals are now getting void. Folk dancers are now turning to different occupations for employment.
Dakshina Chitra hosts folk dances regularly and the performers take part in the programs thus they come in association with a wide market. The children are also encouraged to learn the folk dances during summer camps. Children come here in groups with their parents by booking bus tickets to watch these programs.
Devarattam dancer Kannan Kumar worked as a watchman to earn, but he was encouraged by MCF to follow his dance and now he gets a monthly payment from the center. He is now responsible for training folk dance to group of children at the Dakshina Chitra.
Selvaraj is a shadow puppeteer, who is highly talented. He plays on the table and maintains the rhythm through an anklet studded with bells and he sings the story along with manipulation of the puppets. In this way, Dakshina Chitra has helped many cultures to survive.