3 years

It Happens

India’s Own Madame Tussauds

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A little away from Kolhapur is a unique museum: an entire village sculpted from stone, brick and cement.

A peaceful silence reigns in the courtyard as students sit in rapt atten­tion before their guru. Nearby, a couple of cowherds squat idly, watching farm­ers going about their day’s work. Ideally, this rustic scene should have been accompanied by the jingle of bangles, traditional folk songs and strains of conversation. Yet, not a sound is to be heard. That’s because the only flesh and blood here are of visitors. The rest of the landscape, people included, are made of stones, brick and cement. The Siddhagiri Museum, located some 10 km from the busy district of Kolhapur, is an entire village recreated in sculpture.

The museum was conceptualised by Adrushya Kadhsiddheshwar Swamiji, head of the Siddhagiri Gurukul Trust, in a bid to cre­ate awareness about the ancient ways of village life. “The idea was taken from the concept of a self-sufficient village propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. According to him, the basic necessi­ties should be fulfilled by the village itself,” says Sanket Sagvekar, one of the trustees. “It is the gram culture that has made India what it is to­day. But over the course of time, we have forgot­ten about the benefits of the traditional way of living. Now is the time to bring up the self-suffi­cient model yet again,” says Sagvekar.

Built on an eight-acre plot, the museum was launched in March 2007 and finally complet­ed this year with additions and alterations. Two new sections have been added to the main structure to showcase India’s prowess in sci­ence. “One is about the great scientists in an­cient India whose knowledge about ayurveda, physics and chemistry knew no bounds. Then there is the Garden of Science, where the 12 an­cient branches of science have been represent­ed in the form of tableaus,” explains Sagvekar. The life-like images of ancient sages like the mighty Kashyap and Agastya draw a lot of vis­itors to the museum. The museum’s populari­ty has seen a slow and steady increase. While a year ago only a handful of people knew about it, today it attracts near­ly 15,000 visitors on a daily basis. 

A lot of visitors are so enamoured by these picture-perfect cre­ations that they are now calling this mu­seum ‘The Madame Tussauds’ of India. However, there’s a dif­ference. These sculptures have not been creat­ed with wax, but with locally available materi­als. “The stones and bricks have been wrapped inside a wire gauze and then layered with ce­ment,” says Sagvekar. Part of the money gen­erated from the museum is utilised for mak­ing additions to the structure, and the rest goes into building infrastructure for the neighbour­ing villages. The trust now plans to create simi­lar museums in and around urban centres like Mumbai and Pune.