KINNAL also called Kinhal is a quaint village in the Southern state of Karnataka, located in the Koppal Taluk of Koppal district. This Indian village plays home to the eponymous 500year old art form by the same name . It is known for handcrafted toys and religious idols.
Toys called Kinnal (also spelled Kinhal) have been around since the 15th and 16th centuries, when wealthy princes of the Vijayanagara kingdom and afterwards the
nawab of Koppal bought them. The famed mural paintings at the Pampapateshwara Temple and the magnificent carvings on the Hampi chariot are both thought to be the work of Kinhal artisans. The wooden toys of Kinnal, passed down through the generations and having endured several centuries, have been given a GI (Geographical Indication) due to the fact that the craft is unique and native to this region of the state.
Kinnal idols, which are distinguished by their vivid colours and dazzling paint, typically take the form of Gods, animals, wooden panels, murals, or even masks. The idols of Lord Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati, Hanuman, and Garuda are very well known among the Gods. The murals and temple panels are painted, and they have a distinct folk influence. The themes range from decorative to divine. The paintings can also be seen on furniture items like cradles and chairs. Water colours and oil paints are the two types of paints most commonly used, while oil paints are more popular because they are waterproof and stay longer.
All of the idols are crafted by hand. The procedure of making the idols is intricate and very time-consuming. The “Ponki marra” tree, which grows in and around Kinnal, provided the wood for the idols. This wood’s distinctive quality is that it is light and soft, making it suitable for sculpting. The tree’s wood is harvested, divided into manageable pieces, and thoroughly dried. The initial step entails creating a complete sketch of the necessary idol, which is typically done with charcoal on the walls. The rough sketch is then transferred to a piece of wood and chiselled to create a first model. When the model is prepared, pebble paste and liquid tamarind are applied to the idol. After then, the idol is further honed, with details like the face being carved out and eventually given shape. If the idol is very large, different parts, such as the limbs and the head, are made separately and joined together by a paste that is made locally by the artists in their homes by boiling a mixture of ground tamarind seeds, wood powder, and thin jute strands. This paste is heavily used as most of the idols made are for temples and religious festivals. This glue, which is made by combining pebble powder paste with liquid gum, is used to emboss patterns on the idol, including jewellery. The final colours are applied once the idol has been finished being covered in white paint, which is primarily produced from chalk powder. While red, green, blue, and yellow are the most prevalent colours used, Kinhal toys also have a distinctive gold and silver colour. The “Lajawara” method, a unique process, is used by artists to create this colour, which is made by melting metal pieces.
Perhaps the current miserable status of Kinnal craft shows the need of the sacred economy idea. Many artists moved to various locations after the great Vijayanagara empire fell in order to flee their foes. Two families from the Chitragara group, whose crafts are well-known, established in Kinnaripura, today known as Kinnal Village, 13 kilometres from Koppal City. Due to the fact that so few families are involved in crafts today, their rich artistic history is battling to survive. As with all handicrafts, the number of chitragar families in Kinnal is currently down to 67, with about half of them actively engaged in their skill.
“After completing my school, i had a desire to learn the craft and joined my father and since then I am continuing his work. I have been doing this for the past 20-25 years”, says the artisan.
“On 26th January,2013, we participated in the Republic Day parade with a KINNAL tableau. My father has won many state and national awards and recognition”, says the Artisan swelled with pride and honour.
A 28-year-old artist Santoshkumar Chitragar’s Instagram page, is helping to revive kinnal art, which received a GI tag in 2012. When he’s not in his studio creating the magnificent Kinnal dolls, he’s busy completing sales on Instagram, participating in client conference calls, getting goods dispatched, or planning training sessions for his coworkers in the trade. Santosh is thoroughly enjoying the change from his daily routine of a year ago. He learned how to make Kinnal idols from his father and grandfather when he was young, and he has been doing so ever since. According to Santosh, Instagram has really aided in his goal of continuing the heritage.
Santosh was introduced to social media and given an Instagram account by two students four years ago during a Kinnal workshop at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in Bengaluru. The platform, which has gained a lot of popularity over the past year, has offered Santosh visibility and the possibility to connect with clients not only in India but all across the world. The actual account is run by Gadag-based painter and Santosh friend Nagaraj Bakale. According to Bakale, they frequently get orders from nations including the United States, Germany, and Canada. Encouraged by their success, the two have launched a Facebook page and are getting a lot of inquiries from other countries. Kinnal art is a matter of great pride for the artisans as well as the state. Once when you get time, visit the place to checkout and witness the intricacies of the process of making these beautiful art. And purchase a few as a souvenir.