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Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village—a Stroll through the Past

In a quiet, unassuming area within the town of Manipal lies a quaint site which is a surviving testament to a different time, its purpose only to remind us of what existed earlier. The Heritage Village accomplishes this goal even as it stands alone near the Christ Church among surroundings that have caught up to today’s times. All this came from the powerful vision of heritage conservationist Vijaynath Shenoy. The place was built during the 1970s and 1980s, but the site also holds areas dating back to the medieval times.

As time progressed, most of the old architectural structures were taken down to make way for new ones. This lack of respect towards the culture enraged Mr Shenoy, and he decided to save these structures in any way he deemed possible. He was well aware of the richness of the history our nation possessed and wanted to preserve it. He brought this idea to life to carry on the rich cultural heritage, whose existence became threatened with the advent of time and progress. He started by collecting pieces and scraps of old historic sites as they were pulled down and used them to do the rebuilding of his site. What began with him building his own house out of ancient relics, eventually led to the inception of the Heritage Village.

His house was built out of the pieces he collected from various old temples, churches, and masjids, among other historical sites. He went to great lengths to procure these artefacts. Places like sawmills sold such pieces as spare parts, without ever realising their cultural importance. However, it wasn’t always easy for him with many people being reluctant to help out. On one particular instance, the tour guide narrates, he was blindfolded when taken to a historical site to ensure that he wouldn’t learn the route and return at a later date. It took him about ten years to collect everything he needed and get to work. He was often mistaken for a scrap vendor because of his collection of seemingly random pieces—common household items from ancient times, that otherwise only existed in pictures and books. But here in the Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village, one can easily teleport to these times and get a glimpse of their lives.

The village essentially comprises of various varieties of small houses that were huge structures back in their day and age. However, due to dilapidation, these structures collapsed. All the houses here are a rejuvenation of those older structures, representing their own history and culture. One distinctly noticeable feature is that each house has its own raag playing and a different perfumed smell, adding on to the aesthetics of the village. Various cultures of our society, such as the European, Maratha, and Keralite way of life are on display here. The eastern section is a collection of houses in the style of South Canara, especially those belonging to agrarians. The rest are all a blend of a multitude of historical structures.

Some noticeable houses include the Harihara Mandir, the Kamal Mahal, and the Deccan Nawabi palace. The Harihara Mandir was built with the purpose of housing Vishnu, Shiva, and Parvati. The Kamal Mahal functioned as the private office of the military chief governor. It also houses carved pillars constructed akin to a jigsaw puzzle that can be dismantled and reassembled with the knowledge of the pattern in the full arrangement. The Deccan Nawabi palace is made up of all kinds of imported articles and artefacts from different parts of Europe. These imported items range from windows, flooring, and chandeliers, to aged wine. Another house here serves as a museum showcasing the Thanjavur and other kinds of popular paintings techniques. It even houses German printing machines which are more than a century old. Yet another house showcases the lifestyles led during those times, filled with classical instruments, chess boards, and even the first few photography and recording equipment.

A visit to the heritage village proves to be a trip back in time. It takes people to a different age, one of royalty. Vijaynath Shenoy’s vision to save our culture and heritage has come to fruition after long hard efforts. With each passing day, his original mission of telling the story of our culture to the world successfully lives on.