The rustic vibes of Janapada Loka Ramanagara

It wasn't the first time that we had stopped at the same spot for breakfast
Nor was it the first time that we had heard the foot-tapping music near the grand gate next door.
However - it was the first time I saw those dancers perform to the beat of the drum
And it was definitely the first time, I had ventured through those gates into the rustic world of Janapada Loka.

It isn’t just me who is guilty of this folly. Most travelers on the Bangalore – Mysore road stop at the famous Kamat Lokaruchi, enjoy the scrumptious meals and then drive onward to their destination. They all tend to skip the attraction next to it. Thanks to my recent trip with India Tourism Bengaluru that I finally rectified my mistake. Janapada Loka Ramanagara turned out to be a treasure trove of culture and heritage – a place that honestly, everyone should visit at least once.

Janapada Loka Ramanagara - an ethanographic museum on the Bangalore-Mysore highway
Janapada Loka Ramanagara – an ethnographic museum on the Bangalore-Mysore highway

My tour through the Janapada Loka museum introduced me to quite a few unknown facets of the rural culture of Karnataka. In fact, the folk arts museum challenged me with the things that I thought I knew of the Karnataka culture. I suddenly saw them in new light! This definitely is one of the key reasons why I highly recommend Janapada Loka in Ramanagara as a destination of its own. Not a pit stop but a complete half-day trip from Bangalore.

I am sure, by the end of this post, you too, will be endorsing this recommendation.

What exactly is Janapada Loka?

The Aayagaramala section of Janapada Loka museum
The Aayagaramala section of Janapada Loka museum

Janapada Loka literally means a “folk world“. This ethnographic museum showcases the rural culture of Karnataka. Spread over 15 acres, the village folk arts center displays the artifacts used by the natives. It also, has live demonstrations and shows of the heritage crafts, dance and music. There are model homes constructed to allow you a glimpse of the authentic culture of Karnataka – some of which I had first seen at the Manipal Hasta Shilpa village.

Harihara Mandir at the Manipal heritage village

Hasta Shilpa Village

Read about the Hasta Shilpa Village in Manipal – another ethnographic museum that has actual homes transplanted into the campus. The place even has remnants of royal homes like the one from the 15th century Vijayanagara kingdom and one of the Deccan Nawabs. 

History of Janapada Loka Ramanagara

H.L Nagegowda's statue in the premises of Janapada Loka in Ramanagara
H.L Nagegowda’s statue in the premises of Janapada Loka in Ramanagara

It takes one man with a vision to build an empire. In this case, it was a civil servant H.L. Nagegowda who began collecting the rustic treasures from the various hamlets across Karnataka. In 1979, he and his friends set up the Karnataka Janapada Parishath – a body aimed at documenting and collecting all that they could to preserve the rustic culture of the state. It was their collective effort that helped them get funds to purchase the present-day campus of Janapada Loka in 1994. The place was developed further and the timeless collection was displayed through exhibits and models. Training in folk arts was imparted to the locals to keep them alive and also, share their beauty with the rest of the world.

The layout of the folk art museum in Ramanagara

The map of Janapada Loka
The map of Janapada Loka

The above Janapada Loka map tells you how huge this place is. A glimpse of this is enough to back my recommendation of why this place has to be treated as a destination rather than a pit stop. It will definitely take you more than 2 hours to see it all. Here are the highlights of all that I could cover in my trip here.

The entrance of Janapada Loka near Bangalore

The Mahadwara of Janapada Loka Karnataka
The Mahadwara of Janapada Loka Karnataka

I just assumed that they were regular gates with an artistic representation of the folk culture. It was only when I was about to leave that our guide explained the various symbols on the= Mahadwara (gate). For one, the brass flags on either side are called Harige. They are the flags of Nandi – the divine bull. The central piece called gate is a tribal representation of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. And the trumpets and horns around it – well, they are just symbolic of a welcome.

Dollu Kunitha, Yakshagana & other folk dances at Janapada Loka

A representation of the Bhuta Kola dance  - a folk dance from Tulunadu part of Karnataka
A representation of the Bhuta Kola dance – a folk dance from Tulunadu part of Karnataka

One of the must-see aspects of Janapada Loka is the live folk performances. In fact, that marked the dynamic beginning of my tour to this place. The Dollu Kunitha dancers greeted us right at the entrance and set the pace for the rest of the visit. They led us to the open-air amphitheater which is where one can witness a variety of Karnataka folk dances, music and songs. These are usually scheduled for the last Sunday of every month. Here are two of the popular dances that you will enjoy seeing –

Dollu Kunitha – the drum dance of the Kuruba community

Bare-chested drummers doubled up as dancers – moving to a perfect rhythm controlled by their leader with the cymbals. Dollu Kunitha is one of the oldest tribal dances of Karnataka, a specialty of the Kuruba community of Shimoga. The dance owes its origin to the tandava nritya performed by Lord Shiva when he slew the demon Dolla.

Dollu Kunitha - folk dance of Karnataka
Dollu Kunitha – folk dance of Karnataka

As per the legend, the arrogant demon used to terrorize the Kuruba community. He prayed and asked Lord Shiva to grant him a boon that would allow him to swallow the Lord himself. Lord Shiva agreed and the demon swallowed him. However, once he was in the demon’s belly, the Lord began to grow in size. He reached a size that became so uncomfortable for Dolla that the demon begged him to come out. Lord Shiva came out and killed the demon. He made a drum called Dollu from the skin of the demon and performed a victory dance that came to be known as Dollu Kunitha.

The Dollu Kunitha performance at Janapada Loka on Bangalore-Mysore road
The Dollu Kunitha performance at Janapada Loka on Bangalore-Mysore road

The Dollu Kunitha dancers dress up in a similar fashion as the Lord himself. Bare-chested, the males sport a black lungi or dhoti that is often covered with a tiger-printed scarf. Most of the dancers beat their Dollu with a stick called tappadi. A few of the dancers use other instruments like cymbals, gongs and sometimes, even a flute. The dance is super-energetic and is usually performed during festivals. Sometimes, women in sarees also, accompany the men and add to the vibrancy of their semi-circle formation.

Yakshagana – the dance drama

Quite like the popular classical dances of India like Bharatnatyam and Kathak, Yakshagana is a dance drama. Complete with elaborate costumes, masks and musicians, this form of dance tells you tales from mythological epics like Ramayana and Mahabharat. This is typical of the Tulunadu (Tulu-speaking region) of Karnataka. The dance form has a lot of resemblance to the Keralite dance forms of Theyyam and Kathakali.

A Yakshagana performance that I witnessed in Udupi
A Yakshagana performance that I witnessed in Udupi

Yakshagana is usually performed to live music where the lead singer called Bhagwata narrates the story through poetry (tala). The poetry is accompanied by musicians who play traditional instruments like the harmonium, chande (drums), maddale (hand drum) and pungi (pipe), The dancers dressed in colorful costumes perform to the tala. They use specific mudras (hand gestures) and bhavas (emotions) to explain the story.

Elaborate costumes and make-up used in Yakshagana
Elaborate costumes and make-up used in Yakshagana

Yakshagana is said to have emerged in the 11th century. It is usually performed at dusk. While I could not witness the same at Janapada Loka this time, I did see a lovely performance in Udupi during my coastal Karnataka trip. Trust me, it is one performance that you must not miss.

Lokamata Museum

The fans and locks used  by the natives of rural Karnataka
The fans and locks used by the natives of rural Karnataka

Lokamata museum is the place where you discover the ingenious ways of rural households. The carefully curated exhibits allow you to get a glimpse of the traditional utensils and agricultural equipment. Grinding stones, vermicelli machines, milk churners, coconut graters – there are numerous varieties that are displayed here. If you manage to get a guide, then he will actually demonstrate how these are used. It is actually quite amazing when you see the manner in which those simple tools do complex tasks that we have delegated to modern machines.

Some of the kitchen equipment on display in the Lokamata museum
Some of the kitchen equipment on display in the Lokamata museum

My favorite collection in this museum is the variety of cowbells. From large strings with bells to single big ones -each piece has an artistic element to it by way of its shape or etching.

Malnad House (Malenadu Mane) and other model homes at Janapada Loka museum

Lokmata museum made me want to actually see a traditional home. That is where Janapada Loka Ramanagara delighted me. The campus has a few traditional homes erected. Wandering through them allowed me to actually picturise a real family living in it. Of the many that are around, I managed to see two properly.

Malenadu Mane – a typical Malnad home

Malnad house at Janapada Loka
Malnad house at Janapada Loka

The Malnad home is designed to withstand the heavy monsoons that this region usually gets. The sloping thatched roof with a high pedestal and doorway ensures that the home stays dry. The tiny verandah-like area around the door is also covered by the same roof. This area is typically used by the women to sieve, winnow and even dry spices.

The kitchen area inside the Malenadu Mane
The kitchen area inside the Malenadu Mane

The interior of the house is divided into rooms – one that serves as the bedroom, another that doubles up as a living area and a dining area and the last one that serves as a kitchen with storage space and washing area. This home also, had an interesting door latch – which required a bit of mental reasoning before you can open it and let yourself out. 🙂

The traditional mural inside the Malnad house
The traditional mural inside the Malnad house

One more feature of this home was a wall mural. It isn’t just a random design but indicates how many family members belong to the house. In this case, it shows two people in the center. This means that there is one couple in the house. The painting does not indicate children – only married people.

A typical village Home in Karnataka

A traditional village home
A traditional village home

Another model of a typical village home got me thinking of the Chettinad mansions that I have visited in Tamil Nadu. The home has a central courtyard with an open roof while the living area is around it. Of course, in this case, those courtyards are not as elaborate or numerous as the homes of Chettinad. They are a little more simple and around this courtyard, each side functions as a separate room. For example, one side is where the cots and the sleeping arrangements are made while another end has the kitchen.

The interiors of the village home
The interiors of the village home

Aayagararamala

The wooden chariot at Janapada Loka
The wooden chariot at Janapada Loka

Aayagararamala is the open-air exhibition area around the amphitheater. They give you an idea of the various cottage industries and village occupations in rural Karnataka. You can see life-sized statues of men tilling farms, oil tilling with bullocks, and even fishing boats. One of my favorites in this section of Janapada Loka is a lovely wooden temple chariot.

Close up of the wooden carvings on the chariot
Close up of the wooden carvings on the chariot
Some more carvings on the temple chariot
Some more carvings on the temple chariot

This temple chariot actually belonged to a temple in Halasuru. Every inch of it is intricately carved with figurines of deities and celestial animals. Hidden among them is an engraving of the Mysuru Maharaja and the Queen of England. I would not have realized it myself until someone pointed them out to me.

The carving of Queen of England
The carving of Queen of England

Shilpamala

The Ganesha temple in Shilpamala area of Janapada Loka
The Ganesha temple in Shilpamala area of Janapada Loka

Stone art -some ancient, some new. That is what you will see in the Shilpamala area.

The stone sculpture yard has a Ganesha temple, designed in the typical village style. Around it is a display of unique stones, some dating back to 800 AD. A lot of them are memorial stones or hero stones inscribed with details of the person they are honoring. A few of them talk of grants.

Hero stones and inscription pillars in the Shilamala area
Hero stones and inscription pillars in the Shilamala area
An abandoned rock sculpture of Karnataka - now kept at the Janapada Loka
An abandoned rock sculpture of Karnataka – now kept at the Janapada Loka

You will also, find stone statues of various deities. Most of these were abandoned in parts of Karnataka. The Janapada Loka team has collected these and put them together in this section.

Loka mahal – folk arts museum at Janapada Loka Karnataka

A statue of Hallaki - a harvest dancer kept in Loka Mahal
A statue of Hallaki – a harvest dancer kept in Loka Mahal

Loka Mahal is one of the most colorful and vibrant parts of this ethnographic museum. This is where interesting costumes, masks, dolls, games and musical instruments are exhibited. I even found, ancient manuscripts detailing Mahabharat in this section.

Ancient scripts on display at the folk arts museum in Janapada Loka
Ancient scripts on display at the folk arts museum in Janapada Loka
Ganjif playing cards in Lokamahal
Ganjif playing cards in Lokamahal

In the games section, you must look out for the Indian version of playing cards called Ganjifa. The Queen, for example, is represented by a maharani and the joker seems like a mendicant. Most of them are circular in shape but a few are rectangular as well.

Be warned, this is the section of Janapada Loka where you will end up spending a lot of time!

Janapada Loka pottery section

Janapada Loka pottery making section
Janapada Loka pottery making section

The Janapada Loka pottery section is where you can sit on the potter’s wheel and attempt to make your own clay creation. What is more, is that you can buy the gorgeous creations by the resident potter for a very nominal price. This area is designed like a typical potter’s residence – a small hut with a courtyard and a shed for storing the potter’s wares.

Other Facilities and sections at Janapada Loka in Ramanagara

Chitra Kuteera - the picture exhibition of Janapada Loka
Chitra Kuteera – the picture exhibition of Janapada Loka

Janapada Loka makes a lovely destination for team outings. Not only is there enough space for team events but it also, offers a conference room and an AV room. A tiny lake called Lokasarovar allows activities like boating for families. There is a picture gallery called Chitrakuteera that has actual photographs of tribal dancers, the initial set up of Janapada Loka and more. A small public library called Saraswathi Mandir offers knowledge on all traditions and customs followed in Karnataka. In fact, this library also, has classrooms for students that study in their trust Parishat and boarding facilities too.

Canteen – the famous Kamat Lokaruchi

The very stop that I used to make on the way to Mysore – Kamat Lokaruchi is actually the official canteen of Janapada Loka museum. The place is a favorite for its scrumptious meals and authentic Karnataka fares. If you are here for breakfast, go for their buffet that serves you everything from Kadabu idlis to dosas and akki rotis. The lunch and dinner meals are served on palm leaves – further adding to that authentic Karnataka experience

This is where I conclude this tour of the Janapada Loka Ramanagara. By now, I am sure you will agree that this makes a destination of its own. Comment in and let me know on your views. And if you are already planning your trip here, then just pin this post for an easy reference and share!

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What is the best way to reach Janapada Loka from Bangalore?

The closest airport to Ramanagara is Bengaluru airport. This is around 63 km from Janapada Loka. The nearest railway station is at Ramanagara itself. There are numerous trains from Bengaluru to Ramanagara on a daily basis. From the station, you can hire an auto-rickshaw to get to Janapada Loka on Mysore road.

Janapada Loka is located right on the Bangalore-Mysore highway. You can opt for a road trip from Bengaluru. You will find this museum just as soon as you pass through Ramanagara. It will be on your right-hand side if you are coming from Bangalore.

What are the Janapada Loka timings?

The Janapada Loka timings are from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm on all days except Tuesdays. You can witness folk dances and music on the last Sunday of every month.

How much are the entrance fees of Janapada Loka?

The entrance tickets to Janapada Loka are priced at INR 10 per adult. Photography is allowed at INR 100 per camera.

Booking resources

  • Booking.com has a few options for your stay in Ramnagara. You can use the same link to browse for accomodations in Bengaluru
  • Klook.com offers online booking for camps and trekking in Ramanagara. Through the same link, you can even find car services from airport to Ramanagara
  • For any of your hiking, photography and travel equipments, consider purchasing from Amazon using this link.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

P.S: I visited Janapada Loka on invite by India Tourism Bengaluru

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