The Gokak dolls of Karnataka occupy the pride of place in the realm of traditional Indian doll making. The dolls are called so after Gokak, a village in Belgaum district where this doll making craft has a thriving presence. Besides Gokak, Kinnal and Channapatna are other major centers of the doll making craft.
The Gokak dolls are wooden toys carved out of a soft variety of wood — usually hardware, polki, and hale. These bright and colorful dolls usually take the form of fruits, vegetables, animals, and birds. Skilled artisans nurturing this 200 years old craft have mastered the art of using natural and realistic colors in the decoration of dolls.
Gokak toys are found in over 144 variants. The ones in the form of fruits are made as single units or in the bunch- fruits are attached together and leaves are added. While fruits like melon or pomegranate are shown in a dissected state, grapes and bananas are usually found in bunches.
The doll-making process requires a great deal of dexterity on the part of the artisans. Earlier artisans prepared the necessary colors from indigenous raw materials, but now readymade dye powders are usually preferred. Craftsmen engaged in doll making in Kinnal use a thick paste called Kitta to coat the wooden toys. The paste is prepared to form rags, sawdust, and tamarind seed powder.