Traditional Indian wooden toys seek to regain past glory

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the rich tradition of manufacture of local toys in the country during his ‘Mann ki baat’ radio broadcast on Sunday, it brought focus on the skill, talent and expertise of our artisans in making quality toys. 

Modi cited the examples of places like: Channapatna in Ramnagaram in Karnataka, Kondapalli in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, Thanjavur in TamilnaduDhubari in Assam, EtiKoppaka in Andhra Pradesh and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh which are developing as toy clusters.

PM said the Global Toy Industry is more than 7 lakh crore rupees but India’s share is very little in this. He called upon the cottage industries, small industries, MSMEs, big industries and private entrepreneurs to join hands to enhance India’s share in this sector.

The traditional craft of making Channapatna toys which are a particular form of wooden toys (and dolls) is protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organization, administered by the Government of Karnataka. As a result of the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is known as Gombegala Ooru (toy-town) of Karnataka. Traditionally, the work involved lacquering the wood of the Wrightia tinctoria tree, colloquially called Aale mara (ivory-wood). Now however, a lot of other wood varieties are used. 

Andhra’s 400-yr-old Etikoppaka toys craft seeks to regain its past glory.  

Etikoppaka, a village 80 km from this coastal city, is famous for the trademark wooden toys. As Modi mentioned in his speech, these toys have no sharp edges. They are rounded on all sides and hence present little chances of an injury to children.

Etikoppaka toys are known for their softness, rounded contours, polished colors and the overall craftsmanship. The artisans make wooden bowls, toy trains, idols of gods and goddesses, wooden cannons, bullock carts, spinning tops and many other toys.

The mention of Etikoppaka by the Prime Minister is significant in the wake of growing demands for a ban on import of Chinese toys and the government’s thrust on promoting local toys.

Despite several challenges including the drop in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the artisans in all the toys manufacturing towns and villages of India are hoping that a ban on Chinese toys would revive the demand for their unique craft in the market.

Image courtesy of images courtesy: All India Radio Facebook page

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