A glimpse into the past

folk exhibits

A glimpse into the past

There are various museums across Karnataka that are run by government and private establishments. The objective of these museums is to preserve and exhibit artefacts that depict our culture. One such museum is managed by JSS Mahavidyapeetha at Suttur in Nanjangud taluk, Mysuru district.

The museum’s beginning can be traced back to the time of Dr Shivaratri Rajendra Mahaswamiji, the 23rd pontiff head of Sri Jagadguru Veerasimhasana Suttur Math. It was given a shape by his successor, Sri Shivaratri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji. It was established to preserve and protect the cultural heritage and to uphold the math’s religious and spiritual responsibilities.

Initially, a radom survey was conducted to outline the geographical location and the artefacts the region possesses. This was supported by extensive field work. The survey and field work was conducted by M G Basavanna and S Nanjunda Swamy, who teach at JSS School, Suttur. They surveyed many villages for this purpose, mainly those in Gundlupet and Chamarajanagar taluks.

Later, this work was extended to Mysuru. This yielded rich results. The duo were ably supported by P RThippeswamy, a renowned expert in folklore. What commenced on November 17, 1995, at Padaguru math in Gundlupet Taluk paved the way to make the dream of settting a museum a reality. The palm leaf manuscripts which they collected here provided the strength and vigour in their future endeavour. Interestingly, charakhas and other such indigenous machinery that were used in the production of khadi were also procured.   

Artefacts at the museum

Consequently, appropriate showcases were procured to display the collected artefacts. Many people who came to know about this work were motivated to give unique items from their personal collection. The museum was inaugurated on February 2, 2000. As years passed on, additions were made at a rapid pace. Simultaneously, the documentation of the artefacts began. This was done by numbering them with unique characters.

The artefacts exhibited in the museum range from inscriptions to sculptures and domestic utensils. The inscriptions and sculptures found in Suttur and near by places later helped in supporting and establishing the historicity of the place. Old furniture, domestic utensils both of mud and wood, agricultural implements, pots of different sizes and dimensions, palm leaf and paper manuscripts  were also collected.

From Kartru Gadduge, the museum was shifted to Dasoha Bhavana in 2005. More items and curios were added to the museum as well. As a result, the display became more attractive. Soon, the museum began to attract many visitors, particularly during the time of annual fair. Later, the museum was renovated under the Central government scheme Promotion & Strengthening of Local Museums. The renovated museum is now located in the first floor of Dasoha Bhavana.

The museum has different galleries for the items, artefacts and curios. In Guruparampara Gallery, for instance, furniture, robes, padukas and others used by the pontiff heads are displayed. Inscriptions and sculptures which support the historicity of the math are also displayed. Utensils exclusively used during religious ceremonies and rituals are the other curios exhibited here.

Kadatas (account books) displayed in the museum indicate the income and expenditure of households in the past. There are a number of such utensils of mud, wood and metal. Many types of musical instruments, old and commemorative coins are also displayed. Among the old coins, one belongs to the time of Vijayanagar empire. The rest are that of post-Vijayanagar or later Wadiyar period. 

The museum has a good collection of huge paintings as well, including the one of Raja Ravi Verma. The section which holds the weapons and armaments is interesting too. A sword hidden inside a walking stick called gupti, and string and leather puppets are displayed here as well. A dual stage to play both leather and string puppets has been erected. This is considered as a unique feature. Some leather puppets are glued to fibre plates and the lights emanated from behind them give a new look to the museum.

The ‘field diaries’ maintained by the collectors are also on display. They contain rough sketches — done in black ink or pencil — of the artefacts procured. The other interesting details found in the diaries are the date of procurement of the artefacts along with names and addresses of the donors.

With so much to learn and explore, the museum at Suttur is worth your time. So, next time when you are in Mysuru, make it a point to visit it. The museum is open on all days from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, except on Tuesdays.

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