Dream museum of art and coins

Numismatist, poet, writer and playwright, Dr Upadhya has set up Kalakashi, which houses coins and other art sculptures which bring history alive  

Published: 05th December 2021 06:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th December 2021 06:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

GADAG:  It is an art collection that can leave one mesmerised -- a museum of big pictures of coins from the 5th century till date. Each room has photographs of coins, ranging from paisas and annas to Rs 10,000 currency note. Called ‘Kalakashi’, it is built over four acres of land, just 8km from Ron town in Gadag district, with 11 big halls showcasing over 5,000 coins in 3D format. Each coin is exhibited in a 3”x 5” frame and clearly shows all details. There is also a replica of  Mysore Palace (under construction) and lifesize sculptures of a farmer, cart, gorilla and many more.

Dr D A Upadhya, who served as founder-lecturer at Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA) in Mysuru for 32 years, and as dean at Shri Allamaprabhu Lalitakala Academy (SALA) in Mysuru, returned to his native Abbigeri in 2016 after retirement. His dream: To build an art world in this rural area. He started with his own money, investing lakhs of rupees, and is continuing to pour in resources. His dream is now 70 per cent complete, and will be ready soon.

For Dr Upadhya, it was three years of love’s labour, as he painstakingly collected photographs of ancient coins dating back to the 5th century. The exercise included more than 5,000 coins, and to house them, he built 11 halls. The coins are engraved with  Jhansi ki Rani Laxmi Bai, kings of the Pallava and Kadamba dynasties, Immadi Pulikeshi, Krishna Devaraya, and of the Maratha, Mughal, Tipu Sultan, Dutch, French and British eras. Each coin tells an interesting story of another age, when it was an  important mover of the economy. 

Dr Upadhya comes up to explain the photographs and history of the coins to curious visitors, and informs them how he collected the coins. Upadhya, who was professor at the Arts College for 32 years, taught thousands of students who spread out  across the globe and shone in their field. He contacted some of them, who brought him back rare gems. Besides a passionate numismatist, he also a farmer, writer, poet, playwright, director and tech-savvy artist, who wants to develop the place into a novel art world.  

The professor had always wanted to do something unique. He has travelled far and wide and seen many art galleries and museums. He thought of setting up a museum of coins like no other, and started collecting pictures of rare and commonly used  coins. “I have started Kalakashi to show art to people of Gadag and the surrounding districts. I was inspired by my teacher Dr T B Solabakkanavar, who built the Utsav Rock Garden near Shiggaon in Haveri taluk.

He forced me to start something here, and I  thought of building an art world which is unique, and Kalakashi was born. I collected many art sculptures and put them here for exhibition. Now, a swimming pool and a replica of the Mysuru King’s court (aasthana) are under construction. These will be  the commercial aspect to collect money, so as to give salaries to the staff. I am not getting quality audiences in these parts.

My aim is to spread the knowledge of visual arts and coins to students, and attract them to the wonders of the art world,” says Dr  Upadhya. Said Chennaveerayya Hiremath, a visitor, “We were going to Ron from Gadag town. We saw this place and came inside. We are surprised and happy to see the many attractive sculptures and coins. It is truly a Kalakashi. We will bring our families here,  it’s worth a visit”.

Art gallery
Kalakashi is not only a coin museum, but also an art gallery. It has a buffalo with a cart, a painting with real gold, Mysore Palace sculpture, a small chariot, musical cooker, gramophone... the list goes on.

Currency collection
Dr Upadhya has also collected many currency notes and exhibited them at Kalakashi. Old notes of Rs 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 to Rs 10,000 currency are exhibited here.

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