Two States are Born

November 1 is marks the birth of two states in the country—Karnataka and Haryana.

Karnataka State Emblem

Karnataka came into being on this date in 1956, after the passage of the States Reorganization Act. It is also called the Unification of Karnataka. During the British Raj, the area now called Karnataka was part of many administrative units. About one-third was part of the Mysore Princely State. The rest was divided among Nizam’s Hyderabad, the Bombay Presidency, the Madras Presidency, and the territory of Kodagu.  The Kannadigas were minorities in all these areas, and felt that their language as well as socio-economic development were not being given priority. Hence started the movement to unite all Kannada-speaking people into one state. The demand started way back in 1856 and got a fillip with the formation of the Karnataka Vidhyavardhaka Sangha in 1890. But it gathered momentum when Aluru Venkata Rao made an appeal in 1903 for the unification of the Kannada-speaking area of Madras and Bombay Presidencies with Mysore State. The movement grew stronger over the years, with a literary thrust and the formation of the Kannada Sahitya Parishad in 1915. The initiative developed in parallel with the Independence struggle, and also gained political strength. The growing strength led to the approval of the formation of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress in 1920.

The Nehru Report of 1928 which appealed for dominion status for India, a federal set up, joint electorates etc., also recommended a separate state for Kannada-speakers. Nothing much happened during the Raj though the Congress pushed for it and the idea had the support of the Maharaja of Mysore. This was probably due to the British not being quite sure how they would manage this. At Independence, the portions of Karnataka that were a part of Nizam’s Hyderabad did not become free along with the rest of India, because the Nizam did not accede. It was only on 17 Sept 1948 that they became part of free India after the Nizam was overthrown. But at this point, neither the Congress nor the Maharaja showed any urgency in the matter of creating the State of Karnataka. In fact, it was only after violent protests, strikes and fasts that the unification was approved in Parliament, and the State of Mysore came into being. It was renamed Karnataka on November 1, 1973.

November 1 is marked as Karnataka Rajyotsava, and is a holiday in the State.

Harayana State Emblem

Haryana too was formed on 1 November 1966, 10 years after the unification of Karnataka. It was formed by the partition of the former state of East Punjab into Punjabi-speaking Punjab, and Hindi-speaking Haryana. In fact, the original clubbing of Haryana with Punjab was arbitrary. The area had been ceded to the East India Company in 1803. It passed to the British, who made it part of the North-Western Provinces and then merged it with Punjab in 1858. But it was never a happy union. The people of both Punjab and Haryana wanted the separation, though the Punjab side was more vociferous. The movement for separation started early in the 1900s, led by stalwarts like Lala Lajpat Rai and Asaf Ali in the early days, and spearheaded by the Punjabi Suba continuing into the ‘60s. The Union Territory of Chandigarh serves as the capital of both the states. Which is a another story!

Celebrating the spirit of federalism, diversity, many languages and cultures!

–Meena

Toy Town

Brilliantly coloured, ingeniously designed, safe, pocket-friendly, environment-friendly, contributing to the livelihoods of craftspeople, and carrying forward a tradition.

Now, how many objects can you say that about? Not too many, sadly.

Which is why Channapatna toys are special.

These wooden toys are made in the town of Channapatna in Karnataka, about mid-way between Bangalore and Mysore. As you pass through this stretch of road, the eyes will be gladdened by shops full of these bright and beautiful toys. And you wish you knew dozens of children to gift them to. In fact, so prevalent is toy making in Channapatna that it is also called Gombegala Ooru, or Toy Town!

Channapatna toys are traditional wooden toys (now given modern design twists), which have been made in this town for over 200 years now. The tradition came here in the time of  Tipu Sultan, who was fascinated by these wooden objects, and invited Persian craftsman to this area to teach the local craftsmen these techniques. Since then, it has remained a part of the livelihood of the people here. Bavas Miyan is credited with having made this happen. He was a master-craftsman who brought a high level of excellence to the craft by incorporating Japanese techniques. Bavas Miyan trained a generation of artisans and helped them perfect their skills.

Traditionally, the toys were made from the wood of the Wrightia tinctoria tree (referred to as aala mara or ivory wood), though today a wider variety of woods, including rosewood, teak and rubber wood are used.

The wood is first carefully seasoned, then cut to the required size. Traditionally, the pieces used to be then cut into spheres, squares or any required shape by hand, but today this is done by lathe. Then it is sand-papered to smoothen it. While it is still on the lathe, the craftsmen hold a lacquer stick to the wood so that the piece gets coated with this, thanks to the heat generated in the turning process. Then the lacquer is spread out smoothly over the whole surface using dried palm leaves, giving the piece a brilliant shine. After this, the toys are decorated with bright colours. Only natural colours are used: from turmeric for yellows to kum kum for reds and katha for browns.

The Channapatna toys have seen their ups and downs, and will continue to do so. The changing preferences with respect to toys, the limited reach and distribution, the need for constant innovation in the sector, the ability of the toy sales to support livelihoods at scale—all of these are challenges. The Government of Karnataka has taken many measures—from setting up an Artisan Training Institute, to supporting marketing and developing schemes to support the craftspeople. Market reach is an area where NGOs and others have been involved, and today, Channapatna toys do reach and are appreciated in many parts of the world.

Channapatna toys are unique—in fact, they have GI (Geographical indicator) status. Having a GI tag means  that the product has a specific geographical origin and has the qualities or reputation that are due to that origin. They enjoy legal protection. So only toys made in Channapatna can be called Channapatna toys.

Gift yourself a Channapatna toy, gift yourself a smile.

And support so many causes, all at one go.

–Meena