Some 60 km from the IT city of Bengaluru lies the sleepy town of Channapatna. For the regular tourist out on a day trip or excursion to the city of Mysore, its very easy to spot this town on the way as the road signs announcing “Channapatna – The City of Toys” welcomes you. One typically stops over for a pit stop or a snack break, pick up up some souvenirs of the wooden toys on display and moves on, without dwelling on the rich history of this traditional craft.
The origin of the wooden toys date back to the period of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore from the 18th Century CE. Though some believe that it is older. However, it is during the reign of Tipu Sultan that this craft was encouraged and promoted. He invited artisans from Persia to train the local artisans in the art of making wooden toys. The artisans have neem following the process since then, although with time some of the process has been mechanised.
The lacquered Channapatna wooden toys are known for their bright and vivid colours. The finishing of these toys is very smooth and hence it is not dangerous by any means. The dyes and all the material used are natural and therefore they are completely non-toxic in nature. And the entire process is eco-friendly. The lacquer colours, which are used are prepared from natural shellac. The ivory wood is present in abundance or sourced from nearby regions. They are closely grained and easy to work with.
While the craft started with primarily making toys, but with time the design has evolved with time adding different products and accessories. These products with contemporary design has found demand in the domestic market as well as markets abroad. The success of this craft has attracted quite a few me too products cheap products from China. But, a quick comparison between the two one can make to the difference with the original Channapatna craft scoring high on quality, finish and eco-friendly nature.
The Government of Karnataka has given the status of Geographical Indication (GI) for this traditional craft under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
However, lately the craft has seen a decline due to lack of marketing and promotion that has affected the livelihoods of the artisans.
Creating awareness of this craft and buying the products would go a long way in supporting this intricate craft and the artisans’ livelihoods.
So, if you are in Bangalore or Mysore or closely, take out time to visit Channapatna. Visit the artisans village or any facility involved in the craft. Spend just an hour or so to understand the rich history and story, witness and participate in the unique process of toy-making.
How to Reach Channapatana
The Channapatana town lies on the Bangalore-Mysore Highway. The place is 57 kms away from Bangalore. The small is town is located around 84 kms away from Mysore. The place is just 14.5 kms from Ramanagara, the land where famous movies such as Sholay were shot.
Channapatna has its own railway station, well connected with other cities and towns
The nearest airport is in Bangalore airport (92 km) and Mysore airport (91 km).