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Ex-banker opens Heritage Village

Treasure trove of antiquities will be saved for posterity

Shenoy with one of his exhibits Shenoy with one of his exhibits
  • Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore
  • India
  • October 3, 2011
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After a decade in the making, a Heritage Village is to open soon in Manipal, near Mangalore. The brainchild of Vijaynath Shenoy, a retired Hindu banker now in his seventies, it promises to be a treasure trove of antiquities, including numerous Christian artifacts.

Shenoy has painstakingly assembled entire structures from 26 different communities, in a living exhibit that will provide vivid insights into their history, culture, belief systems, art and architecture.

The ambitious project was born of his passion for preserving and restoring architectural structures which are centuries old. That began in the 1970s, when he noticed that a large number of traditional houses and structures were being demolished.

“If these are all destroyed, there will be nothing to help us identify our roots,” says Shenoy. “I felt compelled to collect some of them.”

The structures, which were mostly standing in ruins in different parts of Karnataka, were acquired, restored and reconstructed in their original form and character, with proper study and documentation.

To bring about their faithful reproduction, Shenoy engaged in a great deal of preliminary study and worked with a team of traditional craftsmen and metal smiths, who inherited their professions from their forefathers.

There are houses of Mangalore Christians, different Hindu communities and Navayath Muslims among others, as well as palaces of local kings and rulers, eight museums of arts and crafts and a collection of ancient and modern paintings.

There is a definite inter-religious tone in the six-acre village, with the buildings, temples and shrines of so many different communities represented right alongside each other.

Shenoy points out that “two palaces called Kamal Mahal – or the Lotus Palace - of Kukanoor and Deccani Nawab Mahal – the Deccan Ruler’s Palace -  are placed as neighbors in the village, even though the former rulers who lived in these palaces were staunch enemies.”

With his keen interest in Christianity, he has collected a number of Christian antiques, tabernacles, musical instruments and chandeliers that are as much as 250 years old.

The collection contains several items that date back to the Basel Mission – a group of protestant missionaries who came from Germany in the 19th century and made a major contribution to the social and economic development of South India.

The opening of the village is awaited with great excitement by local people, including members of the clergy.  “It’s a great work that conveys the nostalgic feeling of our heritage and culture,” says Father Joseph Cardoza, who blessed the Catholic Christian heritage house in the village. “And the Christian exhibits are right next to the Manipal Catholic church, which brings the village even closer to Christians.”

Related reports:

Recent rash of antique thefts worries Church authorities in Goa
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