Channapatna – A day in Wooden toy Town of Karnataka

This has been a post , saved in my draftbox for almost 8 months now. But sipping the morning tea in my sunny Balcony in Gurgaon, I just decided that one fine day I should complete this blogpost (and it turns out to be today),  with some aid from the retained memories left in my cerebrum.

I made this memorable trip in month of May, 2015 while I was at Bangalore, working as an architect for Flying elephant studio. Tithi and Bhavana, two really awesome architect friends tagged along. Since architecture is one of the master crafts itself, we as architects appreciate crafts and would make an effort to travel to dusty towns and crowded cities to witness the timeless art of making things (in this case, these cute interesting wooden toys).

We took the KSRTC bus to the Channapatna from Kempegowda bus station in Bangalore. Channapatna is a small town located almost 50 km south west of Bangalore. It comes midway between Mysore-Bangalore. We reached there within 2 hours, got down on local bus stop and welcomed ourselves with coconut water, which was being sold right across the road.  We walked down to the one of the toys manufacturing unit to explore what all goes behind making these wooden toys.


So what we saw there was piles and piles of rosewood / Kailwood which was left to be dry and  to be rolled on to these lathing machines. Most of these toys therefore are of spherical or circular form / shape (no shape edge or corners). This is also one of the reasons that these are one of the safest for kids to play with. Once, the desired form or shape has been achieved, these are coloured with lacquer chalks on rolling lathing machines and finally finished with paint brush (if the need arises).

After explaining and demonstrating the various processes, a craftsman allowed us to work on lathing machines to create some toys of our own. Me, Bhav and Tithi were very excited at the prospect of it. Though we were also overwhelmed by the speed and momentum of the simple looking lathing machines. None of us wanted to hurt our hands while making the toys. The craftsman well anticipated our concern and patiently guided us through the toy making session.

After an hour of experimentation at the lathing machine, we decided we wanted to walk around the streets of the town. We soon realised that every family which lives in Channapatna is involved in this toy making for almost last 150 years. One of the craftsman explained that during the reign of Tipu Sultan the craft gained royal patronage and became widely practised. In early 1990 s, with Indian markets getting opened for free trade, cheaper plastic toys have gained high popularity and these toys faced the brunt of the industrial competition. However after the State government has opened KHDC almost in 2005, lathing machines are now made available on subsidized rentals, there has been some respite for the craftsfolk. He also confessed that over past 10 years, a lot of their production is being exported outside. With cultures across the world, cautiously understanding the impact of plastics and artifical dyes, with some entreprenural skills, the Channapatna wooden toys with natural Lacquer dyes are increasingly becoming popular again, this time worldwide.

By this time it was almost the noon and we all decided that we wanted to buy some custom designed wooden bangles for ourselves. We all settled at the nook of the streets, got hold of unfinished wooden bangles and some drawing ink. While we began drawing, the neighbourhood kids gathered and we had a quick snap session.

The bangles, beautiful bangles and all of us love them :) {In the bottom left corner of the picture, Bhav was busy drawing up on the bangles}

After some hearty drawing and choosing the respective colours of the Bangles,we bade our guide a warm goodbye. we returned back to the local bus stop, had a quick lunch and boarded the next bus back to Bangalore. In two hours, we reached back to Bangalore and on the way were greeted by some light breezy showers.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we all bought a bagful of toys and became super happy. None of us felt nothing less than a 4 year old that afternoon. Well if I am to sum it all, it shall be through John Keat’s poetry … A thing of beauty (these toys :D) is of joy for ever….

And incase you are a visitor of my sketchblogs, you might ask me, What did you draw? And I confess that I drew on these bangles (only) :)


5 thoughts on “Channapatna – A day in Wooden toy Town of Karnataka

  1. Hi Disha . I find your work very nice. You have a simple way of writing and helps us connect to your vision . I could draw the picture of whole scenario happening there. It is a nice blog. And I am happy to learn a new thing. Please keep writing more :-)


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