Did you know the residence have been making toys for a living for nearly around 200 years now?
This is a story of a town with a curious obsession. Channapatna, which is located on the Bengaluru-Mysore highway, in the Ramanagara district, is the toy capital of Karnataka. In most streets here, you can spot people building and assembling wooden toys in the comfort of their homes. Channapatna has got a delightful moniker ‘Gombaeya Ooru’ or the land of toys.
History of Channapatna
There are several tales of how Channapatna’s people became master toymakers. Among them, the legend of Tipu Sultan, Tiger of Mysore, between 1782 and 1799 he introduced toy making in this town remains a favorite. Tipu sultan and, before that, his father Haider Ali was a great economist and innovator advocating a strong export-import policy to ensure prosperity for his Kingdom during which time he also increased versions 8 is to buy these toys. It is said Bavas Miyan is the father of the Channapatna toy, who sacrificed his life for the Channapatna toys. He adopted Japanese technology for toy making and help the local artists to improve their art.
In the 18th century, when Tipu ruled over the Deccan from Srirangapatna, a foreign guest is said to have arrived at his durbar bearing gifts. These gifts were beautifully painted shiny wooden dolls brought all the way from Persia. Delighted by these dolls Tappu is said to have immediately asked his guest to get Persian artists to teach his people toy making.
Artists and their legacy:
The Special Wood
From the 18th century to date, not much has been changed with regards to the ingredients of a Channapatna toy. Wood from the Wrightia Tinctoria tree or ‘Aale mara’ in Kannada is used to craft the toys. Though, other woods like rubber, sycamore, cedar, pine, and teak are also used as well. Moreover, the wood from this tree cannot be used for any other purpose; the sole use of this tree is making Channapatna toys. It has absolutely no adverse impact on the health of workers, unlike some other kinds of sawdust. Even after working for three or four decade’s workers haven’t suffered any health issues despite being surrounded by so much sawdust from this tree. Further on, the wood is seasoned and air-dried to reduce the moisture content, this process increases durability.
Colored lac is used to paint the toys. The lac gives these toys a shiny finish. Natural colors such as Indigo, kumkum, turmeric, and vegetable dyes are still used to paint the toys, making them 100% child-friendly. After they are painted, the toys are polished with screw pine leaves to make them smooth.
The Mathematical Games
The Channapatna toys are not just consisting of dolls and horses, but also toys to enjoy mathematical games and puzzles. The specially designed soft wooden toys are quite challenging to be used in mathematics.
IT Companies’ Initiative
Various toys are even purchased by giant IT companies like Microsoft, as an initiative to provide education to underprivileged kids in various parts of the world.
Variety of Toys
On the streets of the Channapatna, one can witness the numerous wooden toys displayed all along with the roadside shops. Big banners are hosted showcasing the talent of the town. Many movable kinds of toys are also made by small-scale industries like rocking horses, rabbits, train engines, motorcycle cars, etc. Many kinds of showpieces are also adorned in the shops in the town like vintage cars, beads like curtains, pen stands, candle stands, etc
The decline of Channapatna Toys
As is the case with most native forms of art, the Channapatna toy-making industry faced a severe backlog once it lost its royal patronage. Over the years, it has suffered some incredible financial setbacks and even came close to being shut down for good. A few decades ago this industry, with its traditional kept in the family and passed down from one generation to another, also had to face fierce competition from the Chinese toy manufacturing companies which also became largely popular due to their cheap rates.
Government as Saviour
With the help of Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation, the artisans made small prototypes that were sold in the bigger market. This prototype brought ample attention to the small town of Channapatna.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) also recognized this Kannada town as a geographical Indication that gives them the exclusive right to sell their toys under the Channapatna name. The upscale of production and sale was carried out by the government on handicraft stores selling toys in bulk.
The product enhancement, the Lacquerware Craft Complex running 32 lathe machines was set up by the government. The Karnataka state government in collaboration with the Dutch government recently introduced the Viswa scheme that finances artists to a global level.
Maya Organic is a Bengaluru-based NGO established with the interest to promote the exquisite art of Channapatna.
During the Bangalore Airport food festival, passengers whose bill exceeded INR 300 receive free Channapatna dolls.
Channapatna toys were the 2015 theme of the Bengaluru Republic Day parade.
In addition, the makers of Channapatna are trained and guided by the Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation where they have an Artisan Training Institute (A.T.I) to promote Channapatna toys. This training Institute was established nearly 90 years ago. The Karnataka Handicrafts Board also trains and brings them awareness about the changing trend in the field.
Channapatna on Global Level
With two Prince of Bhutan being the most recent recipient of these unique wooden toys it was gifted by India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Channapatna Handicrafts draws attention all across the globe and were also gifted to the former United States President, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle Obama, showed immense interest in owning this adorable piece of art. During their first Indian visit in 2010, the US President along with the first lady visited the city and purchased these toys in delight. The American White House now housing shelves of Channapatna dolls increase not only the beauty of the president’s home but also Channapatna recognition as the land of toys. Ever since the tourists visiting South India never fail to visit the city lined with these bright artifacts.
Channapatna as Medicine
Kitchen utensils include a special wooden cup known for its curative aspect water stored and consume from this cup is set to reduce blood sugar levels. In addition, it is a great boon for diabetes patients.
The artists pay attention to every single detail while creating every element of the toy whether it is handcrafted. Increasing toy popularity since 2004 has led to online sales of these beautiful dolls. Many popular websites and e-commerce sites that have been selling toys in general, exclusively auction Channapatna toys as well. However, nothing matches the glory of visiting the stores in person and eyeing these products.
Channapatna exports an amount of approximately 70-80 handcrafted dolls each day. Businesses profit at least INR 500 per day making the Channapatna toys a vast income for businesses when compared to earlier times. Despite Chinese competition, Channapatna toys have built their name and glory across the globe. These toys and dolls carry the mark of Indian culture and tradition, adding to their irreplaceable beauty. The creativity used in these toys meets modern expectations and trends as well. Channapatna toys are one of a kind.
Another Reason To Buy These Products
The wooden Channapatna toys not only account for their traditional specialty but also do not leave their carbon footprints in the environment when someone renounces them. This is what makes the toys unique. The traditional way of Channapatna deciphers that art is not always about taking something but is also about giving the environment back what we took from it. The silver lining to this is the Channapatna toys and the dolls are made in India so you are not just saving the planet by using more environmentally friendly toys but are also contributing to the wealth and growth of an Indian artist who toils days and night to nourishing and feed their families.
All images belong to their respective owners.