Channapatna could have been any other nondescript little town along the highway. Somewhere between Bangalore and Mysore, zooming past the smooth road bordered by the lazy fields and the occasional tiffin houses or ‘Tiffanys’ as they are called, my eyes caught a sign which read: Welcome to the Toy Town of India. Now that certainly sounded interesting!
Located at a distance of 60kms from Bengaluru and 40kms from Mysuru, this town of Karnataka falls in the Ramanagara District (yes, where Sholay was shot 😎). The Chennapatna toys are made of wood, and are finished either with organic dyes or lacquer polish. Previously all the toys would be individually hand-crafted, but now there are machine made varieties too.
As I entered one of the shops to pick up some souvenir, I was bowled over by the astounding variety and brilliant craftsmanship of the toys. Starting from tiny spinning tops to giant rocking horses, there was everything.
In no time I travelled some twenty years back in time, and happily started blowing on whistles and tugging at the line of ducks wading their way through. Needless to say, I ended up buying a dozen things. The family of red cats with rather slender necks is my favourite among my haul, and proudly sits atop my chest of drawers now. While most of the rest I have saved for my niece.
I spoke to the people to know that some toy factories let visitors come and see the entire manufacturing process. I was extremely keen to go to one, but a State Bandh the next day marred my plan of doing so. But those who will have a few hours to spend while on this road can visit these. The Bharath Arts and Crafts factory seemed to be the most preferred one.
And just by the way, if you aren’t a lover of toys, there’s desk organizers, key chains, bangles, mats and a hundred other knick-knacks to pick up from these tiny shops. Also the Chennapatna toys make for excellent home decor for those with an eye for kitsch and queer.
It’s a shame that I didn’t even know of this form of indigenous handicraft before I bumped into it. I have nothing against fancy plastic toys, imported from around the world. But it’s time we know about what our own land has to offer too.