Amidst the kaleidoscopic patterns, soft considerate edges , the prismatic dancing dolls, and rocking horses you reach the town Channapatna also called Gombegalu
Ooru; The toy capital of India. 60kms from Bangalore and 80kms from Mysore, a city and Taluk Headquarter in Ramnagra district, Karnataka. Channapatna crafts park, located at Channapatna is India’s first craft park. It is a crafts cluster of 3000 traditional artisans engaged in the production of lacquerware.
The vibrant caricatures have been part of the Indian history for centuries now but in the wake of contemporary times when mass production is the norm. These toys are taking a back seat. But with the recent changes in these few years are bringing these heritage art to the forefront.
This particular type of wood, known as “Aale Mara” or “ivory wood,” is used to make these toys. Wrightia Tinctoria is the correct name for this. Rosewood and sandalwood are also employed on occasion. It is mostly made of wood, and vegetable dyes are used for the colouring. Incense is made from the scraps left over after the wood has been chiselled and shaved. It is environment friendly. The quality of the wood, the lack of harsh edges, and the vibrant colours that do not bleed are what set them apart from the less expensive knockoffs. Even now, these toys are handmade, which is what distinguishes them.
The city is known as the land of toys and it’s history dates back to the time of Tipu Sultan. The practise of creating wooden toys was first introduced to India, more specifically Channapatna, by the Tiger of Mysore, the illustrious Tipu Sultan. He recruited Persian painters to instruct the locals in the middle of the eighteenth century, which laid the groundwork for this traditional craft’s emergence in India. In Channapatna, the arts blossomed thanks to his encouragement. It eventually developed into a skill that was handed down from one generation to the next.
Famous Channapatna toys depicting a giant tiger killing a British soldier were created for Tipu Sultan. The tiger is actually being made to roar by a wind instrument, and the soldier is being made to whimper in agony. A scale model of this is on display in Bangalore’s Tipu Sultan summer palace. The British captured the life-sized original. This is currently on display in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Bavas Miyan is another name you’ll hear in relation to the history of Channapatna toys. He is referred to as the “Father of Channapatna toys” in this town, although not much else is known about him. He is credited for introducing Japanese manufacturing techniques, which made the procedure slightly more effective. Bavas Miyan is said to have devoted his entire life to this folk art.
Due to competition from more modern toys and less expensive Chinese knockoffs, their demand has declined in the children’s toy market. However, initiatives have been undertaken to support the local artisans and Channapatna toys. The WTO (World Trade Organization) thought it best to protect these traditional craft under the geographical indication(GI) tag. In 2006, the Karnataka government was in charge of managing it. It ensures that the historical artwork remains in the town and contributes to its protection. PM Modi recently praised these toys and called for a better distribution of them, perhaps by making the Channapatna Toys accessible online.
Toys from Channapatna have entered the White House as well. Michelle Obama purchased several for her family because of how head over heels she fell for them. As a result of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, expressing a strong desire to buy these adorable works of art, Channapatna Toys garnered significant global momentum. The US President and First Lady visited the city in 2010 during their first trip to India and delightedly bought these toys. With shelves of Channapatna dolls now present, the American White House enhances both the aesthetic appeal of the President’s residence and the reputation of Channapatna as the land of toys. Since then, visitors to South India have made a point of visiting the city filled with these colourful artefacts.
When the Prince of Bhutan was a little child, Channapatna manufactured and sent him special toys. The Channapatna educational toys were presented to Microsoft
staff members as presents.
The Viswa plan, which finances craftsmen to a global pedestal, was implemented by the Karnataka State Government in collaboration with the Dutch Government. An NGO called Maya Organic was founded in Bengaluru with the goal of promoting Channapatna’s excellent art. Passengers who spent more than INR 300 at the Bangalore Airport Food Festival received free Channapatna dolls. The theme for the Bengaluru Republic Day Parade in 2015 was “Channapatna toys.”
Every day, Channapatna exports between 70 and 80 hand-made dolls. Businesses make at least INR 500 per day in profit, making Channapatna Toys far more profitable for toy companies than in past years. Despite Chinese rivalry, Channapatna toys have established their fame and renown everywhere.
These are not only beautiful but are also artefacts, so when you get a chance, do buy a few. This way you are not only supporting the local artisans but also helping the heritage to not perish away. These toys make a great showpiece for homes so get your hands on it soon.