Govind D. Belgaumkar and Anil Kumar Sastry

Of the 27 products certified as `Geographical Indicators', 12 are from State

Channapatna toys

  • Origin: Can be traced to Tipu's era (18th Century)
  • Uniqueness: vibrant colour and symmetrical shapes

    BANGALORE: Karnataka, which is celebrating the golden jubilee of its unification, boasts a vibrant cultural economy. Of the 27 products in India certified as "Geographical Indicators" (GIs) by the Geographical Indications Registry, 12 are from Karnataka. GI certification, part of the Intellectual Property Rights protocol of the WTO, protects these products from being replicated elsewhere. The Hindu will run a series on these 12 unique symbols of the State and efforts made to revive their production.

    Fashion statement

    Kasuti, a form of embroidery dating back to the Chalukya period (6th to 10th Century), is mainly concentrated in Dharwad, Belgaum, Hubli and Mangalore.

    The delicate craft, which faced the threat of extinction once, has been revived, thanks to the initiatives by artisans and some non-governmental organisations.

    A source of livelihood for many in the Hubli-Dharwad region, Kasuti is traditionally done on Ilkal saris. Today, Kasuti on all fabrics is a fashion statement.

    Kasuti's uniqueness lies in its precise geometric design. The embroidery appears the same on both sides of the cloth. Done by counting threads of the warp and the weft, even a minor error can spoil the design. Artisans have begun to use netted cloth to make the job easy, enabling even less-skilled women to do it. Women require a month to lay Kasuti on a sari for a sum ranging from Rs. 200 to Rs. 2,500.

    Poor patronage forced J.S.S. College of Dharwad to close its "Karnataka Kasuti" classes four years ago. However, many artisans, including Manasi Joshi of Navanagar, Hubli, who won a national award for her contribution to the growth of Kasuti, conduct classes. She has trained over 1,500 women and offers jobs to 30 women. She gets orders from Bangalore and Pune. Artist Bharathi Marutheshachar of Hubli predicts a bright future for Kasuti. The Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation (KHDC) holds the GI for Kasuti.

    Dying craft

    The "toy town of Karnataka," Channapatna, is 60 km from Bangalore on Mysore Road. It is said that Tipu Sultan had artisans from Persia to train the toy makers. Thanks to the initiatives by the State Government and some non-governmental organisations, the dying craft is being revived.

    The Design Centre under the Development Commissioner, Handicrafts, Bangalore, supplies special designs to artisans.

    Over 6,000 people are engaged in making and selling toys. The KHDC plays a major role in marketing their products. Artisans produce toys in 254 home manufactories and 50 small factories in villages around Channapatna, says Giriappa, an artisan selling products at the Cauvery Emporium on Mahatma Gandhi Road here.

    What has turned the tide in the favour of the artisans is that they have learnt to adapt to the changing trends and demands.

    Moving with the times, artisans now produce articles for interiors in addition to traditional products.

    They use vegetable dyes, making the toys and dolls safe for children.