Kinnal craft: Glorious once, but gloomy now

Perhaps, the current unenviable state of Kinnal craft demonstrates why the concept of sacred economy is significant. 

Published: 20th January 2020 05:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2020 05:08 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Perhaps, the current unenviable state of Kinnal craft demonstrates why the concept of sacred economy is significant. After the fall of the mighty Vijayanagara empire, a large number of artisans migrated to various places to save themselves from enemies. Two families of Chitragara community known for popular craft work, settled at Kinnaripura which is now called Kinnal village, located 13 km from Koppal city. Today, their rich artistic heritage is struggling to survive as only a few families are in to crafts.

Kinnal is popular for its centuries-old woodcraft and the village has a rich artistic heritage. The artisans behind Kinnal craft are called Chitragaras. The famous mural paintings in the Pampapateshwara temple and the intricate carvings on the wooden chariot at Hampi are said to be the work of Kinnal artisans’ ancestors.Kinnal craft is popular for its attractive carvings in wood, lightweight toys and natural colouring. It is popular in Europe, Middle-East and South Asian countries and also in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and West Bengal. 

Some 10-15 orders from foreign countries are received annually through local brokers or tourist service providers. However, negligence, poor planning and inadequate promotion from the government have done in the authentic Kinnal craft. In the late 20th century, there were about 35 Chitragara families at Kinnal involved in the traditional craft. Today, the number has shrunk to eight because of low income from the occupation and labour shortage.

State award recipient Ballari Hombanna Chitragar’s son Mallana H Chitragar who is in to the Kinnal craft for 25 years and a fifth generation artisan of his family says: “Shortage of labour, poor marketing platform and the absence of government support to buy machines are the main reasons for the current situation.” 
In the early 2000s, the state government included Kinnal village on the tourist circuit to popularise the rich artistic heritage. This benefited the community as it brought tourists in two buses every week. “We used to have a good business. But the lack of coordination has resulted in the shutdown of bus service and that has affected our business,” he says.

He says: “We were first recognised by former Chief Minister late S Bangarappa. He visited the village to address the labour problem and set up a training centre for youngsters, which received an overwhelming response. But after a couple of years, it was shut down. Later, we were provided a marketing platform at Cavuery Emporium opened at Kinnal village. But due to corruption, it was shut.”

He pointed out that in the last few years, workers at the emporium hardly displayed their dolls “as they demanded a large  commission beyond our margins. They give a good display to Channapatna dolls as they give them a better commission,” says Mallana. Not just Kinnal craft, but many other small industries too find it difficult to survive. The world-famous Ilkal sari is another case. The handloom workforce has come down from 20,000 families to a mere 300 families in Ilkal in Bagalkot.


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