I belong to that tribe of travellers who initially travel light but by the end of the trip, end up paying for excess luggage. That's because I am also an impulsive souvenir collector. From driftwood to fridge magnet, if it fits, it comes home with me. From my recent trip to Bengaluru, I came back with a silk scarf, coffee and a toy. Not just any toy but Karnataka's very own Channapatna toy.
To those who are wondering what are these, Channapatna toys are wooden toys from the Channapatna town in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka. Now, why would anyone who is not a 5-year-old be excited about some wooden toy? I have my own reasons. These traditionally crafted toys are protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) and not just that, it's because of their popularity, the town of Channapatna came to be known as Gombegala Ooru or Toy Town.
I always look for something offbeat and when I laid my eyes on the toy, I just knew it had a great story behind it. The story of the Channapatna toy dates back to the 18th century. The toy made its initial journey to the court of Tipu Sultan as a gift from Persia. So impressed was Tipu Sultan of the craftmanship that he invited artisans from Persia to train the local artisans and from there it began, the story of these wooden toys, their journey from Persia to Channapatna.
Each and every toy is carefully handcrafted. Traditionally, the toys are made of ivory-wood but these days one can find toys made of sycamore, cedar, pine, teak and even rubber. Each toy-making process starts from the wood which is then seasoned, cut, carved and lastly coloured. Vegetable dyes are used on these toys so that children can play without any danger from harmful dyes. See, I told you, there's a good story behind the Channapatna toy.