Like I was telling you in a recent post, I am so very glad we managed to make a pit-stop at Channapatna on the way to Mysore, and pick up some wooden toys for Bubboo. It was something I had dreamt of forever, and I am thrilled we got to it at least now.
For your visual pleasure, here are some snapshots from our visit.
For the uninitiated, Channapatna, a town about 60 km away from Bangalore, is home to hundreds of craftsmen who produce a special kind of wooden toys and artifacts that is unique to this place. For me, the town felt like a wonderland of sorts – I lost myself in all the gorgeous toys available here, in chatting with the craftsmen, and trying to decide which toys to pick up for Bubboo (and myself!) and what to avoid.
Apparently, the origin of these toys can be traced back to the reign of Tipu Sultan, who arranged for artisans from Persia to teach the villagers of Channapatna the art of making wooden toys. This art has stayed in the town all this while, with generations after generations of craftsmen learning how to make them. Sadly, though, due to lack of sufficient marketing, the town is facing a financial crunch, relieved somewhat by organisations like Varnam spreading the glory of these ancient toys far and wide. Varnam sells these toys at its Indiranagar, Bangalore, outlet as well as online, but I would say there’s nothing like buying them directly from Channapatna, right from the craftsmen who make them. Like I was saying earlier, that is an experience worth giving to your kids, of introducing them to the very ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’ who made the toys they are going to be buying.
Original Channapatna toys are made of durable wood and are lacquered using natural, vegetable-based dyes. They don’t have sharp edges, and their designs are fool-proof, easy to use for a child but difficult for one to break. So, ideally, these are the best kind of toys that you can get for your kids, right? There are several Chinese imports available everywhere these days – from supermarkets in Bangalore to stores in Channapatna itself – so you need to be wary of not picking up those. I am told that the original Channapatna toys are easy to identify – a) they come in earthy, natural colours like red and yellow and orange and green, unlike their mostly pink and purple Chinese counterparts, b) they have a beautiful, glossy, lacquered finish to them, and c) when in doubt, you could always have a heart-to-heart with the craftsmen of Channapatna themselves.
The minute you enter Channapatna, by road, you will find a huge signboard welcoming you to ‘The Land Of Toys’. Even before you enter Channapatna, though, you will begin to see stalls by the roadside selling colourful wooden toys that you will, no doubt, be tempted to photograph. Wait till you get to the town, and you will get even more enchanted. You will find wooden toys and artifacts everywhere, in shops small and big. You will find small factories making these toys, and craftsmen hard at work. You will find people making these toys right outside their homes, because that is how small this industry is. You will want to buy all of these toys, and you will be able to buy a good number of them too, because the rates here are way, way, way lesser than what you would find elsewhere. You will find these craftsmen smiling at you and welcoming you to visit the place where they make the toys because, hey!, there’s nothing to hide. You will find a whole lot of shops on the highway itself, shops that are nothing fancy but very basic and old. I hear that if you decide to make a little detour deep into the town, though, you will be richly rewarded with sights of even more toy-making.
We didn’t manage to get deep into the village, and were only able to explore the stores on the highway, but then, that was a treat in itself. The sheer variety of toys on display in these stores is mind-boggling! It was a Sunday when we visited, so most toy factories were closed – the stores were open – so I couldn’t get any pictures of the toy-making itself. I am sure that is something I would deeply enjoy, so, the next time around, I am planning a trip to Channapatna alone so I could indulge in some ogling at the making of wooden toys. Till then, I will dream on…
If you haven’t been to Channapatna yet, though, you absolutely must plan a trip, especially if you have a kid. I urge you to. I am sure you will not regret the visit. If you plan to visit the factories, though, try not to visit on a Sunday.
I hope you have read (and enjoyed) my previous posts about this trip already. If you’ve not, please do the deed right away!