DakshinaChitra - Chennai's Best Heritage Museum, ECR (Chennai - Tamil Nadu)


I have been to DakshinaChitra atleast 10 times so far if not more! Its one of the best places to hangout in Chennai! One of my dearest friends had been wanting to visit too and one fine Saturday we took off to DakshinaChitra Museum - a bus to ECR, another bus to MGM, a short walk and we were finally at DakshinaChitra Museum, one of the best of Chennai museums and one of the top things to do in Kovalam, Chennai. 

DakshinaChitra literally means the art of the South. DakshinaChitra is Chennai's Best Heritage Museum that is all about South Indian art & architecture. Dakshina Chitra museum is one of the top places to visit in ECR, Chennai.

Ilkal House Karnataka DakshinaChitra

Ilkal House Karnataka DakshinaChitra

Cheriyal Dolls Mandabeccu Golla Karnataka

Hangout places in Chennai Dakshinachitra

History of Tamil Script Dakshinachitra

My friend was too hungry after she skipped her breakfast (She was way too busy talking to someone special early in the morning that she forgot breakfast, haha.). As soon as we entered we asked where is the restaurant and soon we were at the Bekal - South Indian restaurant inside DakshinaChitra, hogging onto some food. The food here is ofcourse typically, south Indian, from idli, dosa, poori etc as well as a wholesome south Indian thali meals for lunch! After our stomachs were satisfied we headed to the various sections here, segregated according to the states of India India.

Every structure in Dakshina Chitra Museum depicts some or the other tradition and heritage of the southern region of India. The restaurant itself was no exception – the pillar here was a wooden pillar with gorgeous sculptural work reminding me much of Southern Tamil Nadu & Kerala. Every house here is an authentic representation of how the traditional houses were in various regions of South India, much in detail including the occupation of the people who would lived in such houses, equipment needed for their work, kitchen utensils, furniture etc. The primary architect was Laurie Baker who designed the whole museum and it was constructed under the supervision of Architect Benny Kuriakose.

The state we first reached was Karnataka, because this was the one nearest to the restaurant. Karnataka was represented by the Ilkal House, the traditionally built house of the Kannada speaking people (trust me, the highly cosmopolitized Bangalore does not give any scent of the tradional Karnataka!!!). This house is built traditionally with granite and seen here is the kitchen with the traditional brass utensils & stove on the floor. Yeah, traditionally, everywhere in India, cooking is done seated on the floor!!!

From Karnataka, we ventured to Andhra PradeshThe main hall of Andhra styled home depicted the rich textile tradition of the state. Infact a weaver was there seated on a loom and weaving a saree!!! Here was a masterpiece of Telia Rumal just behind him. On the side was another room with a display of Cheriyal Dolls. This is the Mandabeccu is a ritual of the Golla Caste (something similar to Navaratri Kolu) of the Telengana Region in Andhra. All these dolls depict scenes from the Katamaraju Katha – the epic of this caste. Behind this is a typical backyard of many South Indian houses with a small passage with Tulsi plants on either sides.
Dakshina Chitra has several small huts like structures for resting, where you can just sit and chat or lay down for a breath. Anyone who has been in Chennai on a summer will understand what I am referring to!!! Its way too humid and sweating!!! Some terracotta heads and a human head with it! Lolz!!!

From Andhra our next venture was Tamil Nadu. Remember my trip to Arunattan Malai where I tried to decipher the ancient Tamil script? Here is a board with a step by step era wise slow change that occurred in the script. Pretty useful when trying to decipher ancient Tamil inscriptions, right? 
Next is a typical Chettinad House of the Karaikudi Location in South Tamil Nadu. It typically has a square shaped sky open area with these gorgeous pillars in the centre of the house, called Muttram, with corridors that surround it and rooms all around. We then spotted this gorgeous wooden chariot there.

Real Madras Handkerchiefs Dakshinachitra

Textile Exhibition Hall Dakshinachitra

Tamilnadu Bullock Cart Dakshinachitra museum

Silk saree weaving Dakshinachitra

Tholu Bommalatta Shadow Puppetry Kalaimamani Seetha Lakshmi

Events, activities and workshops happen regularly here in DakshinaChitra Museum that showcases the best of heritage and culture of South India. During weekends, in one of these TamilNadu houses Tholu Bommalata is showcased 4 times a day by Kalaimamani. S. Seetha Lakshmi.
Tholu Bommalatta is a Telugu term which means Leather Puppet Show. This is a traditional puppet show of Andhra Pradesh, India. This show has its puppets made of painted leather. The leather is treated so well that it is almost transparent. Traditionally the paint was vegetable and mineral dyes, but these days, glass colors are also used. The point in using glass colors instead of poster or acrylic colors is that the glass colors maintain the transparency of the leather.
The puppets are made in parts. Head, torso, thighs, calves, foot, upper arms, lower arms, palms, are made separately and are held together by small points, so that each part can be separately moved. These parts are individually moved with strings behind a white screen that is back lit. With music beside, the string puppet show creates an amazing dynamic show.
The episode that her dolls enacted was from Ramayana. It’s the episode where Vaali & Sugreeva of the Vanara Sena (The Animal Army) were into a fight. Vaali was the evil one and Sugrivan was the good one. The plan was that Lord Rama would kill Vaali in this fight which he eventually could not do, as they were twins and Rama couldn’t not differentiate. So for the second time, Sugreevan called Vaali again for a fight, but Sugrivan was wearing a tulsi garland this time, so that Rama can differentiate between them, and Rama killed Vaali. The whole story with all the dynamic fight scenes et all it was fabulously well done.
This was followed by a dance, a Barathanatyam performance, also in the shadow puppetry of Tholu Bommalata!

From there we further explored the Tamil Nadu houses. Just behind the Tholu Bommalata demonstration is a person who does marvelous demo of glass blowing. He makes cute things like little Lord Ganeshas and turtles etc. These could be bought and worn as pendants. On a plain black tee or kurta these would look absolutely divine! 
And yeah, he also makes some beautiful carts, sculptures of lord in bigger sizes that could be kept in displays. And just don’t worry about the packaging. He wraps them up in bubble sheet then places the piece of art in cardboard box filled with newspaper scrapes, so you can bring it back home absolutely safe, even if you’re travelling in the footboard of a local bus! 

From there our next venture was the Textile museum. My favourite part was indeed this and why not for a textile design oriented person! Well, the range here was astonishing. A sample or 2 of every other south Indian traditional textile was seen there on display.
Right from woven silks of Kancheejavaram / Kanchipuram, Salem, Arani, to the painted & printed textiles of Machilipatnam, Kalahasthi, etc to the rich Kasavu Mundu to the woven cotton textiles like Narayanpet, Venkatagiri to the special display of the Real Madras Handkerchiefs of the Kalabari community. What not?
The wide range of display had everything complete with a weaver himself at a corner weaving yardages of silk saree. He is Mr.Kesavan who is a traditional Kumbakonam Silk Saree weaver.

Next to it, we ventured to the Religious Art Gallery. The sculptural grandeur of the hand crafted and carved wooden sculptures, the pride of India - the Chola bronzes, the very authentic temple granite sculptures gave an excellent overview of Temple art & Hinduism in South India. Some unique crafts like painted & embroidered textiles used in temples and other devotional purposes, palanquin sculptures etc were also in display.

Next to this we our final target was the Kerala section. But I was too tired to move any further. But no qualms, inhouse are a couple of restaurants and several kiosks that served the traditional snacks. Here beside Kerala section was a lady serving tender coconuts and steamed groundnuts. 2 tender coconuts and a pack of these boiled groundnuts made me human again to get to my feet and walk.
The Kerala section is divided into majorly 3 sections – typical Kerala Hindu household, the Syrian Christian household and Mapla Muslim household. This is an astonishing fact and a great specialty of Kerala. Though the whole of India has every other religion in it, some places have the majority of a single community and some places, like the cosmopolitan metros, religion does not play a role at all. Kerala is the only state where all the 3 major religions have a strong identity – The Iyyappa Pilgrimage Hindus, The Syrian Christians and the Mapla Muslims. Yet another proud proof of unity in diversity. 
These houses also specially gave a clear picture of the Ayurveda that exists in Kerala. This cabinet with so many cute, small draws is for storing the several herbs in the Ayurveda specialist’s home. Any traditional Kerala House design photos would show the Kerala Murals. Remember my Lokanarkavu post where I had mentioned about the Kerala Murals? It has a beautiful uniqueness to it when compared to their neighbours Tamil Nadu Murals found in Thanjavur Brahadeeshwara Temple, though most of the times the stories they depict are same – Mahabharata or Ramayana.

Finally, out of the Kerala House we sat down to try our hand in Palmyra product making. Did I mention anywhere that there are several such small workshops that happen all over Dakshina Chitra everyday. Not exactly workshops, there are small 10-15 mins trainings. This includes T-Shirt Painting, Mehendi, Palmyra product making etc. We tried out hand in making small bowls with handles and hand-held fans and of course the result was not bad!

Is photography allowed in DakshinaChitra? We shot all the above photos. So yes. It is very much included in the entry-ticket price. 
But, is a photoshoot allowed in DakshinaChitra with professional photographers and photography equipment? DakshinaChitra is one of the best Chennai pre-wedding photoshoot locations. And yes! That too is allowed! However a prior permission is required. 

It is very much possible to hire DakshinaChitra Museum to conduct your own wedding or other events in Dakshinachitra. Dakshinachitra wedding would be a perfect destination wedding in Chennai, with a simple, traditional, unique wedding venue in Chennai! 

On Google Maps: DakshinaChitra
DakshinaChitra distance from Thiruvanmiyur (beginning of ECR): 20km
DakshinaChitra distance from Chennai Airport: 31km
DakshinaChitra distance from Mahabalipuram: 30km
DakshinaChitra Bus route: Bus numbers 109cut, 109, 588, 599 are regularly available from Sholinganallur, Thiruvanmiyur and Mahabalipuram. The nearest bus-stop is MGM. 
Dakshinachitra phone number: +91 44 27472603
Dakshinachitra photoshoot permission & venue hire for events contact details: Ms. Vishalam - 9841423149

Best places to visit in Chennai Dakshinachitra

Best museums in Chennai Dakshinachitra

Places to visit in ECR Dakshinachitra

Places to visit in ECR Dakshinachitra

DakshinaChitra Chennai's Best Heritage Museum

It is possible to stay overnight at DakshinaChitra itself (tariff details below) in their guesthouses. I personally haven't stayed here and so I don't have a review of this Dakshinachitra accommodation. There are very many hotels & beach resorts very close to Dakshinachitra at all budgets including luxury beach resorts like MGM Beach Resort, Taj Fisherman's Cove Resort & Spa Chennai etc. The perfect way to wrap-up a day in ECR is by watching the sunset at a beach near Dakshinachitra.

A/c rooms- Rs.1680/- inclusive of tax per day. 
Non AC room (with attached bath)- Rs. 975 per day. 
Dormitory style rooms- Rs.250 per bed per night (shared washrooms).
Call +91 98414 22149 for bookings.

Wed - Mon: 10:00AM to 06:00PM. Closed on Tuesdays.

Adults (Indians) - Rs.150/- 
Adults (Non-Indians) - Rs.250/-
Dakshinachitra entry tickets can be bought online from the official website of Dakshinachitra.

Visiting Dakshinachitra is one the top things to do in Kovalam, Chennai. Dakshinachitra is located very close to the most important of Chennai attractions, the top of the historical places in Chennai - Mahabalipuram. Other places to see in ECR near Dakshinachitra include Muttukadu Boating, Thiruvidanthai Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple, Kovalam Kailasanathar Temple, Sadras Fort, Alamparai Fort, Akkarai Beach, Cholamandal Artists' Village etc

Things to do in Kovalam and nearby areas and places to visit in ECR, Chennai. Here are suitable 1 & 2 days itineraries around Dakshinachitra Museum.
1 Day Itinerary of ECR Chennai
  • Spend half a day in Dakshinachitra.
  • Have your lunch here and head to Mahabalipuram. 
  • Spend the sunset at Shore Temple of Mahapalipuram.

2 Days Itinerary of ECR Chennai
  • Begin your Day 1 walking through the various houses of DakshinaChitra and try your hand in the activities near some of the houses. Don't miss to watch the Tholu Bommalata. 
  • By noon, head to Bekal, South Indian Restaurant inside Dakshinachitra for an authentic South Indian Meals. 
  • Head to Thiruvidanthai Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple and Sadurangapattinam (Sadras) Fort. 
  • Spend the sunset at Kovalam Beach, one of the top things to do in Kovalam. 
  • Dedicate Day 2 just for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram.

Dedicated to Vaishu.

Dakshinachitra Museum places to see in ECR Pinterest Dakshinachitra Shadow Puppetry Tholu Bommalata Pinterest


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. This place seems awesome. Got to visit it the next time am in Chennai, Thanks for ,Bhusha.. Waiting for the continuation on this.


  2. Thanks For the Dedication...

    I was skipped my breakfast because I was talking with my female cousin who is in America :P Anyways thanks for mentioning it Bhush!!!

    Loved the whole of DakshinChitra.... My long long wish coming true.... Thank you so so Much!! :)

  3. There are alot of typos in my previous post please forgive me, I am in a hurry typing my comment... Chorry!!!

  4. I have visited Dhakshin Chitra a couple of occasions & I was planning to write a post for a while now..!.
    I liked visiting it through this good post!

  5. Wow , rightly said that cosmo bangalore doesn't represent the traditional karnataka . Nice to know about this place .

  6. Hi Bushavali

    good photos with narration

    Is Kerala State is there ?

    thanks for sharing....

    my new post http://krishnasepages.blogspot.com/2011/04/kovalam.html

  7. oh lovely!! you've had a gorgeous time! I've never been to chennai.. hope to travel there some day!!

  8. Hello,

    Very informative and lovely photos. These are places which most people don't see.

    The chettinad house looks more like nalukettu in Kerala.

    Best wishes,

  9. I love the old fashioned kitchen and the fantastic collection of dolls.

  10. Interesting topic, couldn't spend much time, but i will be back soon. Thanks for your wishes at my site.

  11. The terracotta heads are fantastic!

  12. @Niranjan Das,
    Its one of the places in Chennai, where you'll forget you're in Chennai. Do visit and am awaiting your post on this place!!! :)

    Female cousin?????????? Ok ok!! :P

    Awaiting your photos and post on this place!!! :)

    @Team G Square,
    I am glad that I introduced this place to you... ;)

  13. @Krishna,
    Part 2 is coming with the Kerala spots in Dakshinachitra!!! :)

    Do visit Chennai. Its a beautiful place!!! :)

    Thanks Cheta!!! :)

    Thanks love.. :)

  14. @Indrani,
    Do come back soon!!! :)

    Thank you so much... :)

    Thanks a lot sweety... :)

  15. Wonderful post. Very nice way to be in touch with traditions.

    Poetry in Stone - 2

  16. Hi there,
    Got here while looking for blog posts on DakshinaChitra.
    We were there last year and absolutely loved it.

    We had loved the Chettinad House and the various Kerala Houses !!

    DakshinaChitra is a very unique and interesting concept. Hope they are able to replicate it for the other regions of India.

    Here are the pictures we took when we were there just in case you'd like to give it a look.

    Take care and safe Travels!


  17. Hi Madhu,
    Thanks for dropping by my blog.
    Yes, Dakshinachithra is indeed a unique place and I loved the place.
    Thanks for your link. I've bookmarked you.
    Will visit you often.. :)


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