Toy Story

Janaki Kulkarni’s visit to Channapatna in Karnataka gave her a unique insight into an eco-friendly industry that has roots deep in India’s heritage

It was the best R-Day parade I had watched. Drenched to the skin, patriotic spirit fiercely alive, I cheered every display till my palms hurt. The chest welled with pride when the huge Karnataka float depicting the toy town of Channapatna sailed in gracefully on the majestic Rajpath. The Obamas were special guests at the parade, and so impressed was Michelle Obama with the colourful, lacquered wooden toys that she took some to the White House for her daughters!

I had a sudden urge to visit Channapatna. I had crossed this gombegala ooru, or toy town, about 70 km from Bengaluru, but had never visited it. Channapatna turned out to be a small, laid-back town with its marketsbrimming with fresh farm produce and flowers. The locals are simple people ever willing to help. It is with them that I discovered the legacy of this craft, believed to have originated in Persia and introduced to India by Tipu Sultan. Entire families are involved in toy making. One such toymaker, Krishna, is a sixthgeneration Rajput from Rajasthan. So what was so special about these toys, I asked him. “Our toys are completely environment-friendly,” he said proudly. And it indeed is an eco-friendly product! Vegetable colours from turmeric, indigo and ratanjot, and natural lacquer from the forest are used.

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With increasing awareness of the need to protect the environment, it is no wonder that these toys have caught the fancy of the international market, especially in the US and Europe. This traditional craft is protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) under the WTO, and the wood used is aale mara, or ivory wood, which is light-weight, smooth and easily available in the region. However, in recent times, artisans are also using rubber, pine, teak and cedar. Seasoning of the wood is key to durability. As for polishing, it is done with a soft leaf called taalegari. Simple instruments such as vernier callipers, scales and dividers are used to get the right size and maintain accuracy.

It was heartening to learn from Krishna that this small-scale industry is seeing a revival, thanks to government and NGO efforts. Talent is being trained and exports are picking up. And thanks to its ecofriendliness USP, it has survived a scare from the Chinese market. So the rocking horses will continue to rock toddlers and the mathematical games and puzzles will continue to quiz youngsters!

[ksy&f[kykSus

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f[kykSus cukus okys dkjhxj d`”.k ls ;g tkudj vfr izlUurk gqbZ fd ljdkj ,oa ,uthvks ds iz;klksa ds dkj.k bl y?kq m|ksx dk iqu#)kj gks jgk gSA izfrHkk dks pedk;k tk jgk gS ,oa fu;kZr esa c<+ksrjh gks jgh gSA i;kZoj.k&vuqdwy gksus ds dkj.k ;g m|ksx phuh ckt+kj ds izHkko ls cpk gqvk gSA vr% dk”B ds ?kksM+s vkus okys le; esa f’k’kqvksa dk eu cgykrs rFkk xf.kr ls lacaf/kr [ksy o it+Yl fd’kksj&fd’kksfj;ksa dk lkekU;&Kku c<+krs jgsaxs!

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