MASALA MANGO MANTRA is a canadian blog uniting artists, designs, decor, fashion, food from around the globe and that which is beautiful and sometimes Indian inspired by design

Monday, February 14, 2011

Channapatna- Toy Town Tale

My younger daughter will be nearly two in May 2011 and just like any curious toddler would, she will invariably put the toy in her mouth to show her appreciation.   In my quest to find something safe for her to play with, I scouted around toys that have been tested  safe for young kids to bite and sink their teeth into  and found a number of brands selling organic wooden toys. But one such brand caught my eye and I was absolutely thrilled to find a toy manufacturer that made toys that I as a child grew up playing with.  Handcrafted- handmade -non toxic -  lead free-  wooden toys- artisan created and straight from Channapatna, Karnataka, India.

Image courtesy: Ashok Mandy

Image courtesy :

As a young child, I remember playing for hours with the colourful kitchen set and rocking horse. I also remember the colourful jump ropes that  I had in bright pink and green. I also loved playing with the wooden spinning top with my brother.  Little did I know that these toys would make a comeback in my life in such a way.

My research for these toys brought me to earthentree and I am just bowled over by the turtle.

Image Courtesy:
My daughter is soon going  to own the Tommy Turtle and the red bird whistle, that’s for me:)

So where is CHANNAPATNA?
Channapatna is a town which is about an hours drive  south wes t of Bengaluru, India and lies on the Bengaluru-Mysore State Highway.  In the local language, Kannada, this  town  is known as “Gombegala Ooru “ or Toy Town.

The History of  Channapatna toys
According to Wikipedia, the origin of these toys goes back to Tipu Sultan an Indian King who who reigned over the kingdom of Mysore and who invited artisans from Persia to teach the locals to make these toys.  This traditional craft is now protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organisation and is now administered by teh Government of Karnataka.

Originally ivory wood was used to make these toys, but now, other wood which is locally available is also used to make these channapatna toys.

The process
Channapatna toys are lacware products. Lacware is a traditional handicraft of Karnataka. So these toys go through the lacware process where at the wood is shaped by turning it on a lathe and finished with lac. Artisans use both power lathes as well has hand held lathes to shape the toys. Once the required shape is made, then the toy is given a a sanded smooth finish.
Most items are made from hale wood (Wrightia tinctoria) which is a closely grained, medium sized tree. It is off white in colour and is moderately hard. It turns beautifully on the lathe and needs very little surface sanding. (Source:
For colouring the wooden object with lac, a piece of solid lac is held against the surface of the finished product, while the lathe is turned at high speed. Due to the heat generated by friction, a coating of the melted lac covers the outer surface of the object. Screw pine leaf is used as the material for buffing.

Colours used
Channapatna toys are made using only safe vegetable colour dyes.   The natural vegetable colours used are Yellow from Turmeric, Blue –Black – Indigo, Orange – kanchi kum kum powder, Red – Natural Alizarin and kum kum powder; green – indigo and turmeric; light brown – katha; dark brown – ratanjyot. Sounds rather exotic right? 

During my last visit to India, I bought these beautiful channapatna wooden bangles from the local Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium, Bengaluru. Aren't they just gorgeous? 
Should you ever happen to visit Bengaluru, most local handicraft stores sell channapatna toys and also sell decorative flower vases, napkin rings, jewellery and educational toys as well. Cauvery Handicrafts emporium sells a lot of channapatna toys and this place is not to be missed for beautiful artisan stuff from Karnataka.
So what is happening to the manufacturers of these toys?
My findings on the internet saw that the local Karnataka Handloom Developmetn Corporation had to intervene to help save these artisans of Channaptana. 
People would rather pay exorbitant prices for name brands than look for the local handmade artisan stuff.  The advent of plastic toys and mass production, has made the handmade artisan toys look like as if they are exorbitantly priced.
I am adding a video that I found on youtube
This is an art that is going through Doldrums and definitly needs a boost. 
Recently, Michelle Obama on her visit to India, bought Channapatna toys for her daughters. It made a lot of news around the globe about what she bought. Well, in a way, this is like a huge selling point for the channapatna artisans.  It should boost their sales up this year for sure. 
I really wish that this art will go beyond the centuries that Channapatna toys have been known for. But right now, I am glad that my daughters will get to play with channapatna toys and cherish them.


  1. I love channapatna toys. Recently, my sister and I bought a cute wooden telephone toy at a channapatna toy fair. I too remember those cute kitchen set toys with a grinder, wooden pans etc. These are the safest and most creative toys for kids.

  2. Happy that you stopped by Iniyaal! Indeed,the channapatna toys seem to be the safest toys!


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