Channapatna is a town in the state of Karnataka. It is popularly known as "Gombegala Nagara" or the "Land of Toys." The city is also famous for its lacquerware.True to its name, when you travel through the town, you can see that almost every household is involved in the process of doll making in one way or the other.
The toys made here are famous worldwide for their authenticity, traditional craft-making skills, and eco-friendly features. Made from wood and natural dyes, the toys aid in the children's overall growth beginning from their tender age.The variety of the toys with a touch of innovation has earned these toys GI tag from Govt. of India, making them unique and traditionally rich.
The Famous dolls in the Channapatna Toys or Dolls
Channapatna handicrafts have managed to put Channapatna, a Karnataka town, as one of the finest toys makers on the world map. The Channapatna wooden toys have gained popularity and have managed to reach different corners of the world. The traditional and innovative articles have expanded Channapatna's popularity from mere local to global markets. The toys provide a safe and learning environment for children by immersing them in the rich history and colours of Channapatna.
The Origin of Channapatna Toys
Channapatna toys have a nearly 300-year old history. The story of the origin of these toys in India, especially in Channapatna, is fascinating.
The origin of these toys in Karnataka trace back to King Tippu Sultan's years, who ruled from Mysore between 1750 to 1799. Historical records indicate that the king received a lacquered Persian toy. It captured his attention so much that he invited the Persia artisans to come over and train his people in the craft. Thus, began the history of Channaptna Gombe.
The actual industrial unit was set up in Channapatna, in Karnataka, by the Maharaja of Mysore, who identified these dolls' potential in capturing the young and adult minds alike. In 1904, the Maharaja of Mysore sent Mian Bavasmia to Japan to learn its lacquerware technique, who on returning trained artisans in this industrial unit.
The art form, which has evolved over the years, is still made in small homes, and the knowledge is passed through the generations. The twist of modernity and new ideas are slowly entering into this craft form, making the world turn towards these beautiful, hand-made, eco-friendly toys.
How they make the Channapatna Toys
The artefacts manufacture in Channapatna follows a unique system of production. Each individual piece of a whole product is hand-crafted with a few simple tools or the lathe to assist the artisan at a different part of the village or different households. Only when the pieces are finally assembled one truly knows the nature of the product. The head or the chief designer are the ones who truly understand what the end-product will look like after assembling the product. It held close to their hearts like a scared secret.
Curing: Channapatna toys are crafted from soft ivory wood that is available abundantly around the area. Also known as hale mara, a dedicated set of population work towards procuring this wood from local wood suppliers. Depending on the wood's size, they are cured for a duration of 1 to 3 months. Though the government has set up industries in place for the purpose, several craft makers prefer getting their supplies from the local vendors.
Crafting: Once cured, the woodcutter's then cut the big blocks to the required size depending on the order received. Till the small blocks are put to use, these blocks are stored with them or with the artisans for future use. Upon receiving the order, the craftsmen shape these small-sized blocks into the desired toy or artefact.
Preparation of Lac: After shaping them into selected products, it's now time for these wooden crafts to be coloured. For this, the artisans buy lac chips, a natural resin obtained from forests. First, they light a coal fire in a small bowl and stick the chips at the end of a thick wooden stick. Then they melt/heat these lac chips to the required sticky consistency. The sticky lacquer is coloured with vegetable dyes to give different colours to the toys and artefacts. Some of the organic colours used in the process are – Turmeric for yellow, indigo powder for blue, and kumkum for orange and red.
Colouring Artefacts: Once coloured, these lacquer are passed on to the artisans to colour their wooden toys. Different parts of the artefacts are then held in the lathe and rotated at high speed to generate enough heat to melt this lacquer. As the lac melts, it adds colour to the wooden surface, which is then polished with dried palm leaves are to provide a smooth finish.
With the advent of electricity, people are slowly adapting to modern machinery, though they still use their hands to finish the final product.
Why are Channapatna Toys very famous?
The Channapatna Gombe is famous for various reasons. A few of them are:
- The artisans add a personal touch to the artefacts by using small tools to hand-engrave beautifying elements on the surface of lacquered trinkets.
- With the expansion into the international market, new and innovative ideas are flowing, making them visually and mentally appealing to cross-sectional societies worldwide.
- The toys add value to Indian traditions by depicting variety. The dolls often replicate the local fashions or depict scenes out of ancient religious texts.
- The artefacts also come in a variety of rich natural colours and contemporary styles, making them visually appealing.
- The Channapatna's woodcraft is often combined with other local skills such as Sandur's embroidery skills to create traditional games bringing two different craft skills together.
What's the significance of the toys?
- The Channaptna toys have managed to compete with the international online and offline markets due to their unique creative styles and creativity.
- The natural dyes and lacquer make the handicrafts children and eco-friendly.
- The main charm lies in the handicrafts' personal touch as gifted and well-learned artisans make them.
- The craft techniques are passed down the generations adding both cultural and historical significance.
- It is not produced in large factories but small workshops in the backyard or the houses' front yard.
- The other unique feature is the GI tag that these toys are associated with. The title ensures that the handicrafts abide by and meet the standards.
- The industry supports over 6000 artisans and their families, making it truly made in India product, thus encouraging local productivity. #VocalforLocal
- With the era of the internet and digital marketing, the limelight is being shed on these traditional handicrafts. The toys have found innovators and investors alike to take them on to a global platform. It is said that Microsoft makes a bulk purchase of a few unique custom-made toys to improve its employees' cognitive function. With information about these toys reaching a far greater audience, these toys are readily available on online shopping portal like Puja N Pujari. Also, with the Governments support for Vocal for Local, one can say the golden age of Chanapatna handi-crafts is beginning.