Chennapatna is a small village located 60 kms from Bangalore. It takes around 1.5 hours to get there, thanks to the well laid roads. On the way you find a small town called Ramanagaram – famous for two things : Silk and the Shooting location of the blockbuster movie Sholay.
Chennapatna is famous for its colorful, wodden toys which are vibrant yet child safe. This is what has set Chennapatna toys apart from the complex and expensive toys available in the market today. Its what has put a small village on the International Map! Yes, these toys fetch good revenue through exports. People all over have tried to replicate these toys but just can not achieve that final look and finish that Chennapatna artisans have mastered over generations.
Last month I had an opportunity of visiting this village along with my brother-in-law, mom and husband. My Brother-in-law had some contacts in the place. A toy manufacturer was waiting for us near the entrance of the village. He took us home and allowed us into his small factory that was attached to his home. I found him really hospitable. After a demo of the toy-making procedure he invited us home and displayed samples of toys he had produced so far. An opening in the ceiling of his house provided the most beautiful, natural spot light on a table. I immediately took advantage of it and started shooting pictures of his wooden wonders.
How are these toys made?
Factory workers typically use a motor-driven lathe machine. I was amazed at the speed with which the artisan was converting logs of wood into smooth, shiny spheres that would later serve as spare parts for toys.
The blocks of wood used here are nothing but trees that are felled in the nearby areas. Their wood is soft and easy to carve into desired shapes.
The toy makers use lac – a jelly like substance that is melted and solidified into a stick. The solidified Lac is then rubbed on the toys as they are being processed on the lathe machine. The heat produced by the friction on the lathe makes lac leaves its natural mustard color on the toys. For the other colors that they need they just mix a vegetable dye while melting the lac. These toys are safe for babies to sink their teeth into.
Soon after that we went to the main market area of Chennapatna where we saw heavily stocked shops selling a range of wooden toys and utility items. The sheer vibrance of the shop left our eyes wide open.
The shop owners were patient and displayed the working and usage of every single product we choose. Finally, we bought a bag full of toys, bracelets, necklaces, etc; and left for the factory where toys are made.
Locations where toys are manufactured
Besides the home-run factories Chennapatna has a main campus where Government factories are located. We found the Maya Organic factory a little different from the others around it:
- Maya Organic had a board mentioning targets per day for each employee and his wages.
- Employees were in uniforms and are mostly young (as against the other factories)
- The quality of toys produced, Work conditions , machines, etc; seemed better
I couldnt get an inside view of Maya Organic as photography was prohibited in there.
We bought some key chains from them and headed back to Bangalore. The sun was getting me and I wanted to reach home soon.
We stopped at Kamat Lokruchi, the hot eating joint on Bangalore-Mysore Highway. Anyone who has ever been on that road will know of it. It serves traditional North Karnataka food. We ate a South-Indian Lunch meal there and continued our trip home.
Tips to have a great trip
My happy trip ended with a migraine. Yes, I hadnt been drinking enough water and ate a delicious spread for lunch, something didnt add up. I suffered with a heat-triggered migraine that lasted for nearly four hours. Went away after throwing up about 2-3 times. Here is how you can avoid this situation :
- Start early in the morning and try to wind up your trip by afternoon.
- Drink plenty of water and eat less food
- Wear a pair of good sunglasses, preferably with a polarized filter
- Place a cold water pack on your next and shoulders to improve circulation.
Polarized sunglasses reduce the partially-polarised light reflected from surfaces hence soothing the eyes.
You can find some more toys at my Brother-in-law’s site so Far.