Hasta Shilpa – one man’s handiwork

When my children were kids, I read to them about a French postman who built a castle – pebble by pebble. It took him close to 30 years to complete the project. Closer home, I am sure all are familiar with the story of one man’s determination to build a road through a mountain that Bollywood turned into a biopic. Even closer home, literally in the backyard of the city where I grew up, there is another man’s work that deserves far more visibility than it has received so far.

(Late) Mr. Vijayanath Shenoy called the university town of Manipal in Karnataka, India home. Even though he was a banker by profession, he had a natural inclination for art and culture. From this stemmed his passion for collecting, conserving and restoring antique household articles and building material. As a child back in the 80s I remember reading about the house he built by putting together material that he has collected from the region (Dakshina Kannada District and surrounds) – wooden pillars, doors, windows, etc. Word got around and people flocked to see his house. It must have been really painful to have all these people visiting Manipal and staring at his house. But that did not deter his passion one bit. Mr. Shenoy wanted to preserve the rich heritage of art and architecture found in homes of the region. In fact his collection grew so big that it is now housed on a 6-acre plot and called ‘Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village Museum’.

‘Hasta shilpa’ translates to ‘handmade’. What you see here are all handmade masterpieces in wood juxtaposed with artefacts collected over time. The furniture pieces, kitchen articles, musical instruments and such other treasures are housed in replicas of homes built in traditional styles. So there is a Darbar Hall of Mudhol Palace built as per 19th century Maratha architectural style, a Deccani Nawab Mahal of North Karnataka, a Mangalore Christian House and so on. What I feel bad about and a tad bit ashamed of is that I neither visited the place while I lived in Mangalore, nor on my several trips over the years to Mangalore and Manipal!

I gathered from their website that it was not easy to raise funds to create the place and they need more today to sustain. So if you feel generous, please donate, they need all the financial help. Spread the word, more people need to visit and admire the richness of art in wood.

Now, in COVID times the place is partially open and guided tours are available only on weekends. I visited on a weekday afternoon and the sneak peak has made me determined to go back (and I hope, pretty soon) on a weekend for a complete treat. More from me, after that trip. Until then, enjoy the visuals above.

  • Entry fee of INR 100 for adults and INR 50 for children aged between 10-14 years to be paid in CASH only. They do not accept any other digital payment method.
  • Opening Hours: Entries are permitted at 10am, 11am, 12noon, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.
  • Guided tours are available only on weekends and will need prior booking.
  • Useful website: Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village

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