A house of treasures

HERITAGE RELOADED

ONCE UPON A TIME (Clockwise from left) Chachadi Wade, a manuscript, traditional household items at the museum. Photos by author
It all began five years ago when Karnataka Itihasa Academy started its Belagavi branch in Chachadi village of the district. Upon visiting Chachadi Wade, ancestral house of the village’s reputed Desai family, historians and researchers were awestruck by the family’s collection of artefacts, antiquities, arms and armour, special photographs and manuscripts.

The architecture of the wade complemented its preserved items,Heritage comes aliveThe academicians struck upon the idea of creating a small museum in the wade. They proposed this idea to Nagaraj Desai, the heir of Chachadi Wade and a patron of Itihasa Academy, Belagavi. They even assured necessary support. Nagaraj in turn discussed the possibilities with his family members and realised that they can breathe life into their rich heritage in the form of an extensive display. The result of those discussions stands in the form of an impressive museum today.

Situated in Savadatti taluk of Belagavi district, Chachadi has a history of 850 years. The Desai family of Chachadi Wade was an epicentre of administration for ages. The fifteenth Jagirdar of the Desai family, Veerabhadrappa Gunappa Nayak Bahadur Desai contributed greatly to the fields of education, literature, history, culture and farming. It is said that KLE Society grew to great heights during his tenure as its president. Recognising his efforts in social work, the British Government even awarded him the title ‘Rao Bahadur-Sardar’.

Preserving legacy
When Nagaraj Desai, great-grandson of Veerabhadrappa Bahadur Desai, took the reins of the family, he realised the significance of preserving family’s collection of heritage artefacts that could take one back to a completely different era. This was also an effort to remind the younger generation about the family’s legacy. Thus, Nagaraj initiated an effort to protect and maintain these historical artefacts that showcase the changes in lifestyle, culture and traditions of his ancestors. To educate people about Veerabhadrappa Bahadur Desai’s immense contributions, and preserve the rich history of the wade, he floated V J Desai Foundation in 2010.

The foundation has everything, from ancient books to tools to handicraftitems, on display. For instance, the library has around 1,500 volumes of ancient books, including manuscripts.

Good old stuff
Works of Shanthabai Chandrabhushana Nayak Bahadur Desai, Nagaraj’s great-grandmother, are preserved in perfect condition here. Her work on ayurveda, Ayurvedamruta (which explains the use of ayurvedic plants in detail), and her self-composed tripadi (three-line verses) have been published by the foundation.

The museum which is built adjacent to the wade displays a variety of woven hats and caps, traditional clothes, toranas (festoons), and other utility items .

Reminiscing the words of her mother-in-law, Parvatitai Nagaraj Desai explains the benefits of specially hand-crafted wooden combs found here. “Two-pronged in shape, they had tiny openings at one end to pour oil; the comb was designed to apply oil even as the hair is being
combed!” she says. “Today’s commercial works of art are no match to the talent that our ancestors had, which is evident in these items,” maintains Anusuya Rudrappa Kambar, a teacher in the village.

Researchers’ reference
The museum also has an extensive collection of farm implements, kitchen utensils, brass and earthen pots, arms, intricate embroidery patterns like kasuti, bamboo baskets, measuring jars and the like. With this collection, the museum aims to educate the younger generation about the daily lives of our ancestors.

Residents of the village and neighbouring villages visit the museum with their guests. Researchers also find this collection useful. The museum is open on all days and the family does not charge any fee for entry.

Somappa Adivappa Karabannavara, a resident of the village, says, “The museum reminded me of the days when we used to carry water in earthen tatranis that kept water cool for a very long time. Looking at these traditional water carriers, displayed in the museum, my grand-daughter squeals with joy and wonders why they are not in use anymore.”


(Translated by A Varsha Rao)