What we do

We preserve, promote and present the rich cultural heritage of South India through curated permanent exhibits and a variety of public programming. Some of these include:

  • Traditional homes from different regions of South India have been purchased, dismantled and relocated at DakshinaChitra .The lifestyle of the communities that lived in these houses has been exhibited in each house. You can explore 18 heritage houses, amble along recreated streetscapes, explore contextual exhibitions, interact with typical village artisans and witness folk performances set in an authentic ambience. DakshinaChitra literally means – “a picture of the south”.
  • We promote crafts through hands on activities and workshops for our visitors.
  • Learning based special activities for students and children (both rural and urban) are organized regularly to help increase their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of South India.
  • Craft shop and crafts bazaar: We network with a wide number of craftsmen, artisans, artists, Self Help Groups and NGOs to give their products a wider platform. We also offer design advice and marketing advice to interested groups to make their products competitive.
  • We organise workshops on craft & textiles, art and folk performances for students, children, adults and educators and encourage them to use traditional skills to meet contemporary needs. …. Read more ..
  • We host regular folk performances at DakshinaChitra and involve the performers in interactive programs and workshops to improve the quality of the performances. Through these efforts we strive to encourage them to continue with their art, improve the performances and to introduce them to a larger market.…. Read more ..
  • We organise collaborative International seminars to create platforms to sustain dialogue about issues of culture in our globalising World…. Read more ..

How it started

From 10 acres of undulating sands to a vibrant heritage Museum ..

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 and folk artists of the villages, Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan, set out to found the Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) in 1984.

Madras Craft Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization and DakshinaChitra was conceived as its main project. With the support of like-minded board members and volunteers and financial support from the Madras community, Dr. Thiagarajan and all others associated with MCF pursued the dream with perseverance and determination.

MCF received a Ford Foundation grant for research and education in 1988, a long lease of land from the Government of Tamilnadu came in 1991, followed by grants from the Development Commissioner Handicrafts (Government of India) and by the Ministry of Culture for the building at  DakshinaChitra. Matching donations came from industry. The Museum slowly became a reality and opened to the public in December, 1996.

Laurie Baker - the renowned architect, graciously donated his services to the Foundation. The spatial conceptualization at DakshinaChitra and his building techniques and process breathe his philosophy of empowering masons and craftspeople in the building process. Architect Benny Kuriakose who designed the public buildings and supervised the conservation and reconstruction of the heritage buildings, has also provided continued service to the Museum.

Today DakshinaChitra successfully showcases the rich cultural heritage of South India. It reflects the beauty, traditions, innovations and the continuing evolution of South Indian arts and culture.

The journey continues...

Board of Directors


City Office