Crafting a deft story

Varnam is a social enterprise that has been working with artisans in Channapatna for over a year. It is the brainchild of Kartik Vaidyanathan. It was born in late 2011 during a trip to Mysore en route Channapatna. The colourful toys of Channapatna left him fascinated and created an urge in him to know more about the craft. Being in a full-time job (he is an engineer-MBA), he would travel to Channapatna over weekends and holidays. A few visits later, he decided to work among the artisans.

“My attempt has been to bring my own aesthetic sensibilities and design philosophy to traditional crafts. The idea is to reorient our crafts to the modern context by ensuring that each design has a utilitarian value and thereby becomes relevant today. There is a constant dialogue with my artisans on current market trends in terms of finish, utilitarian value, and attention to detail. In doing so, I hope to enhance the sense of pride amongst our master craftspeople for their skill and ensure that these crafts continue to thrive,” says Karthik.

The lac-turney craft involves several independent steps. The soft wood of the hale tree (wrightia tinctoria) or aale mara is first turned into circular shapes by the dexterous use of hand, power lathes and suitable cutting tools. The turned wooden items are then lacquered by means of frictional heat. Painted lac deposits itself on the turned wood and gives it a bright and colourful appearance. To finish the process, the lacquered piece is buffed with the leaves of the tale gari (pandanus odoratissimus) that gives it that glossy finish. The wood used is locally grown and is known to have several medicinal qualities. The lac used is a natural resin secreted by a microscopic tiny insect, popularly known as ‘laccifer lacca’. The colours used are natural. Even the waste wood is reused in the craft and the saw dust is used in the incense industry. In an industry where more than 90 per cent of the artisans are men, most of the creations have been deftly handcrafted by women artisans. Karthik calls these creations, ‘Stories from Channapatna.’

Kaiwara’s attractions

A hill valley, historic Amara Narayana temple, temples associated with the Pandavas, holy Lakshmana Tirtha, sacred Brindavana and Narayana Ashrama dedicated to the much revered saint Yogi Narayana. You get to see all this at Kaiwara where in June, devotees from all over congregate in thousands for the yearly  aradhana of the saint, who is popularly known as Kaiwara Tathaiah.

Believed to be Ekachakranagari where the Pandavas lived during their exile, Kaiwara is situated beside the Bheema-Baka betta where Bheema killed Bakasura and hurled down the demon’s remains inside the hill crevice which the devotees religiously visit particularly during Shivarathri.

Bheema-Bakasura hillock (with a 700-stone stepped path) has the holy lake Lakshmana Thirtha and the temples of Anjaneya and goddess Chamundeshwari. Historically, once the capital of Cholas, Kaiwara was also ruled by Nolamba, Bana, Ganga and Rashtrakuta dynasties.

Located thirty km from Chikkaballapur, Kaiwara’s main attraction, Amaranaryana temple has the idol of Narayana, also worshipped as Thimmappa the presiding deity of Tirupathi temple.