Wooden Lacquerware of Chennapatna, Karnataka

Wooden Lacquerware of Chennapatna, Karnataka

The world of gaily coloured lacquerware toys - red and yellow dolls, bright magenta wheels, orange and green tops - from the town of Chennapatna denotes a cheerful space filled with play; however, there is an impressive complex of work, skill and dexterity that converts a combination of Hale wood and shellac into a charming array of toys. Chennapatna toys, as the name denotes, are a speciality of Chennapatna town (in Karnataka state); they are also made in the surrounding villages in Chennapatna taluk, Bydara, Hali, Neelasundara and Harisundara being a few of the villages where these toys are made.

Material remains from the Indus Valley cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro show evidence that toys have been a significant artisanal craft in the subcontinent from that long ago. The raw materials differ, the finish(es) differ, but a singularly striking chain runs through from the clay toy carts found in these Indus cities to the brightly lacquered red and yellow carts and train sets made in Chennapatna. Toys continue to be enormously visibly and dearly loved both in urban and rural India. They often acquire a special significance during celebratory festivals like Dussehra, when toys are among the gifts given to children.

Lac-turney was an indigenous industry in Chennapatna, practised by artisans known as chitragars. The making of lacquerware toys was, however, begun in the 1920s, spurred by an attempt made by the Superintendent of the Industrial Training School at Chennapatna to expand the product range among local craftspersons.

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