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Hasta Shilpa Antique Museum, Manipal

Hasta Shilpa is Karnataka's pioneer Heritage Village located in Manipal, the renowned university town of Karnataka. It aims to restore and conserve the nation’s cultural wealth such as historical constructions and residences of the past, artifacts, objects of art and crafts dating centuries ago and other objects of historical and aesthetic interest. Hasta Shilpa brought to the fore the issue of conservation of the treasure trove of the country’s rich and disparate cultures that define India's global identity. Hasta Shilpa is the brainchild of Vijayanath Shenoy, a retired bank officer from Syndicate Bank, which has grown into an important heritage village acknowledged globally and visited by eminent contemporary artists, critics and members of the corporate world. The venture is funded not only by the State Government of Karnataka but also by the Norwegian, Finnish and Netherlands governments. The Village is managed by the Hasta Shilpa Trust.

The Heritage Village has a number of museums and galleries, prominent among them being the Museum of Folk Arts, which is considered as one of the largest and most endowed museums with respect to volume of space, number and variety of objects, the rare character of its exhibits and their imaginative display.

The Buntsalaya was a building used for trading in port towns such as Udupi. The wooden artifacts here stand testimony to the prosperity of the trading community belonging to the Adiga lineage. Measuring equipment of the yesteryears and navigation devices used by the visiting traders throw light on ancient commercial activity. The Deccan Nawabi house is a fine example of the regal and majestic lifestyle led by the Nawabs. The exquisite house has curved windows with kaleidoscopic Belgian glass. The floor is overlaid with tiles that depict German influence. Other captivating creations at the Hasta Shilpa include the Durbar Hall of the Marathas, Mangalore Christian house, a house from the days of the Vijayanagar Empire and the house of a Brahmin joint family from Kerala. Hasta Shilpa also has several art galleries. The Ravi Varma paintings and lithographs are an exquisite collection and include instruments, inks and machinery from Germany used by him. The gallery for contemporary art encourages present day artists. Hasta Shilpa acquired, restored and reconstructed 15 heritage structures to their original form and character in different parts of Karnataka. The Trust also reconstructed two ancient shrines, Harihara Mandir and Vishnu Mandir, Museum of Arts and Crafts and built three structures of the Museum of Folk Arts. They also built the Gallery of Tanjore Paintings, the Gallery of Cultural Legacy of Raja Ravi Varma and three wings of the Museum of Contemporary Arts. The work of Basel Mission Museum of Terracotta Products was completed as was Training cum Production Centre. The Hasta Shilpa Trust completed four functional structures including the Central Library and Archive, Documentation Centre, Publications Division and Administrative Block. Bazaars of crafts and workshops of artisans in all the traditional occupations were laid all along the roads in the Heritage Village creating an alluring streetscape. The Hasta Shilpa Trust will be setting up a Museum of Textile Art like Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Pichchwari from Rajasthan, Patachitra from Orissa, Kutch Embroidery from Gujarat, Chamba Rumal from Kumaon Hills, Tapestry and others. Plans are in the offing to establish a Museum of Folk Paintings like Mithila Paintings from Bihar, Gond Paintings from Chattisgarh, Warli Painting from Maharashtra, Pithora Paintings from West Bengal, Padh Paintings from Rajasthan, Kalighat Paintings from West Bengal. Other plans include setting up of a Museum of Traditional Miniature Paintings like Mughal, Rajput, Kangra, Barholi, Kishangarh and Kotak. The Trust has set up a gallery of drawings by Narendra Babu, Rajavelu, Binadar, Iqbal Ahmed and others and a Gallery of Graphic Arts by different artists. Now they are working on improving infrastructural facilities in the entire complex of the Heritage Village. A nation’s rich historical past is preserved through music, culture, lifestyle, art, design and society long after it ceases to exist. Valuable endeavors like Hasta Shilpa instill pride in our cultural heritage.

History

Funded by the State Govt of Karnataka, and the Norwegian, Finnish & Netherlands Governments, the heritage centre today is visited by some of the most eminent critics, contemporary artists & the corporate world, thus creating a vibrant ecosystem which furthers the cause of art.

Mr. Vijayanath Shenoy, now a septuagenarian, is a retired officer from Syndicate Bank. Back in the 70’s, Mr. Shenoy was building his own house and went around looking for designs from ancestral homes across Karnataka. He found these timeless pieces facing ruthless destruction at the hands of their owners as they made way for modern homes and high-rises. A survey of the material culture of Karnataka revealed that during the past three decades of the last century there has been a vast destruction of conventional residences and heritage structures, apart from relics, arts, crafts and artifacts of the past. Karnataka is a state rich in historical monuments. The constructions surveyed belonged to the period between the 14th century AD and 19th Century AD. Many of these embodiments of ancient and medieval architecture were in different stages of destruction and some were on the verge of collapse. Social changes such as breakdown of joint families, rise of nuclear families and brain drain led to the lack of maintenance of traditional manors, mostly in rural areas which were later reconstructed using modern, urban architecture despite the Trust trying to impress upon the owners to restore the original structures. Arts, craft and architecture faced the same predicament leading to the neglect of innumerable traditional Indian paintings, sculptures, bronze icons and wooden, stone and metal ware articles of the ancient times. They were left to be damaged in temples, monasteries, rural palaces, forts and manor houses of the landed gentry. Other social developments such as Land Reforms Act led to detachment from ancestral property, especially due to overriding commercial interests. Ports like Udipi, Mangalore and Hungarcutta belonging to the 17th century came to be neglected with the advent of roads and modern transport. Trading centers known as Buntsalaya of the Adigas in these regions came to be neglected. Art, craft and architecture are integral to the continuity of our heritage. Allowing them to be destroyed would lead to hampering the foundations of our cultural roots and rich historical heritage. The Hasta Shilpa Trust therefore acquired rare specimens of heritage structures, traditional works of art and craft from their owners and relocated them to an appropriate place. With a grant of six acres of prime land in Manipal from the government of Karnataka, the Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village came up. With funding from the Royal Norwegian Government, 15 heritage buildings were acquired, restored and reconstructed and four functional structures were constructed. The Museum of Folk Arts and Museum of Arts & Crafts were constructed with funds from the Government of Finland. A gallery of Cultural Legacy of Raja Ravi Varma was set up with funding help from the Government of Netherlands. The Government of Karnataka supported the construction of a Training Centre in traditional crafts. The Volkart Foundation of Switzerland helped the Trust to set up a Basel Mission Museum and the Middle East Traders, Abu Dhabi, headed by S.M. Rao, supported the work of setting up of a Gallery of Ganjifa Art. Shenoy was personally involved in the process of restoration and recreation of the past. He put in great efforts to comprehend the past associated with historical structures, by associating himself with the families that owned the properties. Over the past decade, the Trust has relocated and restored 26 structures of immense architectural merit and fine craftsmanship. The relocation of a traditional building involves several intricate processes like documentation of the concerned structure through measured drawings and visuals, coding of each component of the structure prior to its dismantling and restoration of the damaged portions of the structure before its restructuring in the village. The Trust has not only undertaken all these but gone the extra length to ensure that most priceless constructions are not lost forever.

Hasta Shilpa Trust
50, Anantnagar, Manipal – 576104
Karnataka – India
Phone Number: + 91 9845229701, +91 820 2575910

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