You are about to step into a hundred year old house maintained intact with all the items used by the joint families back then. The name of the house is ‘Kanchi Kudil’ and it is located in Kanchipuram, a historic town in South India (Tamil Nadu). Kanchipuram was mentioned in Mahabyasa, a work of Sanskrit scholar Patanjali in 2nd Century BC. The history of this city extends to a few centuries before that! Kanchipuarm is famous for its huge Temples and silk sarees. It is one of the best cultural destinations of South India.
Call it bad luck or tough luck or whatever, the moment I stepped into this house, there was a power-cut! So, some of the photos I took there were quite dark and unusable! Aided by the natural lighting and my camera flash, I still managed to get some pictures to show all of you. As you can see in the first picture, there is a ‘thinnai’ in front of most traditional houses that is used for people to sit and enjoy the natural ventilation. It also provided a place to chat with neighbors. In the earlier days, it was quite normal for strangers coming from other places to sleep/take rest in the thinnai. The above photo shows an old teak-wood table and chairs kept in the living room (hall).
Another striking feature of old houses in South India is this Kolam. It is a decorative painting, often done in front of the houses and in few cases, also within the houses. The ‘Kolam’ in the above photograph is permanent and painted, but generally it is drawn using white powder (what is it called?) which is temporary as it can be deleted and other Kolam designs can be made on subsequent days. Kolam is also found in pooja rooms in South Indian houses.
Also faintly visible in the above photo (not sure if you can see it) is the payi (mat) and banana leaves laid in front of them. That’s how our elders used to eat food, served in the banana leaves and sitting on the mat in the ground. Right behind the glass showcase are two rooms. One is the grain storage room, where the accountant sits receives bags of grains and stores it in the storage area (made of wooden planks) in the top. There is another room with a cradle. Rooms have openings in the top for light and ventilation.
In the middle of the hall, there is a large swing. On the other side, there is the ladies changing room. One can see paintings and photos of women with traditional jewelery. There is even a model of a woman with silk sari and jewelery but due to the power-cut, I was not able to take a proper photo.
The pooja room is perhaps the best photo I was able to take! That’s because it had abundant sunlight from the adjacent open area that has a thotti for water storage and leads to the kitchen. As you can see in the above photo, the statues and photos of various Gods are kept along with pooja items for worship. The various dolls exhibited on the left hand side is a part of the Golu, which is exhibited during the Navarathri festival.
When we go further down, we reach the family kitchen and wash rooms. Some crockery items used in the earlier days are displayed here along with the stove which used firewood or perhaps coal. There were quite a number of showcases with decorative items, mostly consisting of statues of God and a few toys. Have a look at one such showcase:
So, how was the power-cut ridden tour? There is another 300-year old house about which I wrote a couple of weeks earlier – The Shakuntala Jagannathan Museum of Folk Art. Both are quite near to each other. To reach the ‘Kanchi Kudil’, you need to take the road opposite to the famous Ekambareeswarar Temple, go to the dead end, turn right and after a few meters you can locate it next to a small temple on the left side of the road.