Janapada Loka, located in Ramanagara, was established in 1994. It captures the evolution, journey, spirit and essence of the State's rural heritage. The bright blue gates with murals of masks and birds in equally vibrant hues are hard to miss if you are travelling on thBengaluru-Mysuru highway.
Founded by eminent author and folklorist H L Nage Gowda, who was an ardent fan and champion of performing arts, Janapada Loka is home to around 5,000 exhibits. While many of these artefacts were collected by him for over three decades, some were donated. The exhibits cover almost all facets of Karnataka's rural life and reflect the rich native culture and heritage of the State, including indigenous festivals, fairs, games, dances and farming techniques.
Soak in folk
The sprawling 15-acre campus comprises several sections including the Lokamatha Mandira, Loka Mahal, Chitra Kuteera, Shilamala, Ayagaramala, an amphitheatre and a lake.
Lokamatha Mandira has an extensive display of rural household items and agricultural tools. This space has a well laid out display of cooking vessels of brass and copper, ladles, jars, buttermilk churners, choppers, stoves, wood and mud containers. These exhibits give an insight into rural cooking and innovation. Case in point is the vessel that was used to steam food, the noodle press and a large grinding stone that was used during weddings. There are various kinds of hooks and equipment used to harvest crops and different kinds of bells tied to cattle necks on display.
The highlight of the museum is the Loka Mahal that exhibits life-size dolls related to Yakshagana and other folk art forms. One also sees life-size images of a Kodava couple wearing the traditional costume and jewellery. Leather puppets used in puppetry shows, masks and handloom fabrics are also seen here.
Interestingly, these jostle for space among weights and measures, arms and weapons as well as musical instruments. There are umpteen masks, drums, cymbals and a huge collection of Ganjifa cards. The first floor has a rare collection of folk instruments, puppets, Yakshagana costumes as well as soma and harige masks. There are wooden idols of the bhootha (spirit worship). There are also dolls related to the Beesu Kamsale style of dance, which is yet another unique folk art form that is performed by the devotees of Lord Mahadeshwara.
"The collection here is truly precious and speaks volumes about our rich heritage. Our folk culture needs to be preserved and shown to the next generation," says Mullaiah, who works as a guide in the museum. Being a folk artist himself, he adds that many rural folk art forms are slowly disappearing because the next generation is not keen on pursuing the art. "Folk art and artists need to be recognised," rues Mullaiah.
Chitra Kuteera is a circular building that displays photographs of the work that H L Nage Gowda did with tribals, and the images of varied folk art forms. These images vividly capture the costumes, cultures, customs and art forms of the tribes of the State. There are several rare photographs of dance forms like tharle barle, harvest dance of Halakki Vokkaligas, the gonda dance, the ummathat and the dollu dance. The array of masks used and the make-up techniques of these artists reveal the ingenuity and skills of rural people. There are pictures of folk artists performing leather puppet shows, goravaiah and of instruments like the gumate mela. Janapada Library has a large collection of books that students use for their research.
In the open
The site has a large number of outdoor exhibits and a sculpture section. The sculpture section has several ancient stone sculptures. Some of these artefacts date back to 800 AD. The hero stones on display are noteworthy. Idols of worship that were found abandoned have been collected, restored and preserved. Behind the Shilpamala there is a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, a must visit for its typical rural architecture. Also stop by the Ayagaramala, an open yard that has large installations of a bullock cart, sugarcane crushing and oil extraction machines, and a wooden chariot that has been carefully restored after it was abandoned.
A puppet theatre with a capacity of 50 people and a Greek amphitheatre style open-air theatre that can house 1,000 people are also part of the museum. This apart, an artificial lake, Loka Sarovara, with boating facilities can be seen here. Doddamane, which is the model of a large traditional village house with a pillared central courtyard, attracts visitors. It serves as an artistic residence and a place to host seminars and workshops.
A visit to this museum is a wonderful way to get acquainted with the folk traditions and customs of Karnataka.
The museum is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm. It is closed on Tuesdays. For more information, call 080 23605033.