First popularized by the ruler of Mysore Tipu Sultan, Channapatna toy-making and wood crafting has a long and rich history. It is a tradition that has been kept around for centuries. Even now, many artisans make a living out of handcrafting vibrant wooden toys and similar products like home décor, women’s jewelry, and accessories.

 

                

It’s been said that Channapatna is a 200-year old craft introduced to India when Tipu Sultan invited Persian artists to teach the art to local Indian artisans way back in the 1750s. Since then, the art has been passed down, generation after generation, particularly in the Channapatna town of Karnataka. Channapatna is popularly known as Gombegala ooru or “The Toy City,” being home to artisans and artisan families that still practice the toy craft.

 

 

This particular technique of wood crafting involves artisans shaping wood into various shapes in order to make all kinds of playthings, ranging from dolls and balls to bangles and board games. The process requires two major raw materials in the form of Aale mara or ivory wood and lacquer sticks. Wood is traditionally cut into 15 or 20-millimeter sizes and dried above fire in order to remove moisture. Once dry, the wood is shaped and turned using hand-operated lathe tools, chisels, and other shaping implements. Nowadays, mechanical tools that don’t require rotation by hand make the process a lot faster and easier. Color is applied using lacquer sticks, which are spread and glossed using the natural heat of a palm leaf, rubbing against the turning wood. The individually shaped parts are then cut and assembled into completely child-safe, non-toxic, and environment friendly wooden toys.

 

The town of Channapatna is one of the most popular places where these wooden toys are made. Many local artisans partake in Channapatna toy-making as their main means of livelihood. They consider the art an important tradition that should still be passed on from generation to generation, especially in this day and age of mass manufactured and cheaper look-alikes. These artisans make it a point to teach their kids the craft so that the tradition of toy-making can live on.