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The Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village
Not far from from Manu Palli aka Manipal Lake in the city of Manipal, if you wander on Alevoor Road, you will encounter a unique compound of lovely, stately restored houses, some with laterite facades, others with intricately carved wooden and stone sides. Their designs are totally out of sync with designs seen elsewhere, till you rub your eyes and wonder if they belong to another era, like objects seen in faded photographs or black and white films of the bygone era. But these are for real, standing stately in a quiet compound welcoming the visitor to see them. What follows is a unique experience, one of a kind in India.
The Hasta Shilpa Heritage collection of houses stands pristine...at first you wonder why the buildings look alike, yet different, but as our guide patiently ushered us through each, drawing our attention to special features of each, from an inbuilt locking system made of wood, to cantilever roofs balanced on a single iron shaft, to the unique ventilation system in another, it is evident that each structure in the compound is one of its kind, a stand alone and a gem by itself.
On view are period mansions that date back to 14th/15th centuries, some from Maharashtra, from erstwhile Berar/Hyderabad provinces, unique wooden structures from Kerala, from Goa (with Portuguese/Latin influence). There is the Raja of Mudhol's darbar hall (Mudhol was a principality in the region of Bagalkot, Karnataka), beautifully structured with unique furniture and photographs, palkis, weapons etc. Mudhol has of late been in the news as home to a unique indigenous breed of guard hounds. Security and defence forces now want to "recruit" this breed for their work as they stand our weather and other conditions much better than expensive foreign breeds used on our frontiers and at airports/ports etc.
Aside from structures, the complex also has a large collection of Chhatisgarh/Bastar ritual wooden masks, cire perdue (lost wax) process statues from Central India and Maharashtra, sati stones, storage jars/bharnis from many parts of Asia (often used as ballast in sailing ships),and many other priceless objects collected/restored.
All this through the passion and perseverance of one man, Sh. VN Shenoy who literally gave his personal funds and life for realizing this museum (later some Scandic countries also joined in to give assistance; now Tata Trusts help out). However the existence of this unique spot is not much known in wider circles, and much less talked about. The founder, sadly passed on in 2016/17, but his dream project lives on as a landmark for all heritage lovers.
The latest mansion to "join" the collection (though not ready for public view yet) is "Shiv Baug" the twin level Naimpalli family house, originally located in Mangalore. Shiv Baug housed a rather large and well to do Aamchi family of Mangalore for generations (Find out more in 'A Gentle Life'). The likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and leaders of that heady era spent time in this house when they visited the Konkan coast during the Independence movement.
The Village offers guided tours at fixed times. There are reportedly over 20 structures at the site (they are running out of space given to them by local authorities, and there are plans to expand elsewhere) but not all can be viewed. Very competent guides take visitors around. Ticket prices (Camera separate) are reasonable for a place of this nature, at least less than an average pizza or a multiplex theatre ticket ! And look at what you get for that price.
We conclude with a request. This is our heritage, which (if not rescued and preserved in its entirety) would have been dismembered and vanished, to adorn some collectors' living rooms, either at home or in distant lands; our fellow citizens gave their all to rescue and preserve it for the present, and for posterity. We are beholden to them for keeping this heritage alive for all of us to see and enjoy. Please, therefore, contribute generously, enabling it to survive. You can do this either when you visit there, or even as you sit reading this article, and seeing the accompanying photos. By doing so, you are helping keep our national heritage alive! and safe for future generations.
Further Details at:
contact cell: 09845229701, 08202574577.
Address: Alevoor Road, Opposite Hotel Lake view, Manipal, Karnataka.