So what is Channapatna? More importantly, where is it? And what is it about this place that makes it special?
To be perfectly honest, when I started this venture, I did not know much about it either but I had heard of it. And then I dug for some more information.
Channapatna is a town, not too far from Bengaluru, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The toy making tradition of this town can be traced back to the 18th century. This was when Tipu Sultan, the valiant warrior and visionary, ruled this part of India. He definitely had an eye for innovation. It was then that he invited artists from Persia to train the local artisans in the making of wooden toys.
The toy making industry flourished over time. Today the skills of these artisans are globally recognised and protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) by the World Trade Organisation. This ensures that these toys retain their unique character and cannot be copied elsewhere.
However, this has not translated to economic growth in the community. The toymakers’ population is dwindling at an alarming rate. This is simply because they are unable to compete with mass produced cheap plastic toys. And of course, following the economic principle, drop in demand has led to drop in opportunities and wages and ultimately the living conditions for these talented craft workers.
But there are some rays of hope as there are some organisations – like the non-profit we partner with – are helping these artisans develop and adapt their craft to the needs of the modern world. We, at Ethiqana, are proud to be part of this great tradition and helping to bring it to the wider world.