From Bengaluru to the town of Channapatna, the distance rounds to 62km. The toy production units are situated some 3 km to the interiors. Channapatna town in Bengaluru, is famous for the beautiful toys carved out of wood. The wooden horses and Willys car models have been creative works of the highly experienced and skilled artists here.
The Channapatna toys were part of many childhoods in India and abroad. But the city is slowly fading off its glory. A major reason would be the new generation losing interest in the occupation and Chinese toys dominating the markets.
Channapatna is a small Kannada village which is far different from the city of luxury. The main source of livelihood here is the toy making industry. Most of the villagers depend on it for a living. As per the government records, around 6000 people work in this behalf.
Most of them work in the small workareas built attached to their houses. Apart from the small machines used to trim and mould the wood, no other advanced technology or equipment is used for the toy making.
The history says that the carpenters from Persia who lived here during the Tipu Sulthan’s era, taught the technique of toy making to the villagers. At that time, the toys for the royal family and the higher officials were made by Channapatna natives.
Later these toys had great demand in Britain. The toys were even exported to China at that time. But later China underwent big changes in the industry. They advanced highly in toy manufacturing and electronic equipment. Chinese toys took over the place of Channapatna toys in a great deal.
This affected the sale and also the production expenditure increased. The prices of wood and paints went up and the wages of workers remained same. Also the industry faced a shortage of skilled workers.
“Earlier, many orders were received from North India and also outside India. But all this have come down steeply”, said Jaffer Khan who runs a toy manufacturing unit attached to his house. Only small wooden dolls are produced here now.
Some are even running small working units by gathering many workers together. Rubber and pine trees are mainly used here for toy making. Earlier the wood used was of Teak, Rosewood and Jackfruit trees but higher prices resulted in low sale which forced a shift to inexpensive woods. Purely natural colours are used in the toys. The toys are made in parts at various units and assembled at a single place. Later these toys are sent to state handicraft development corporation stores, outlets or private shops for sale.
Most of them say that even when they work long hours, they get only a meagre amount. So the younger generation have an avoidance towards the occupation and they are migrating to cities like Bengaluru for higher education and jobs.
Another small scale toy manufacturer, Suhail Parves says that the GST has also played a major role in the destruction of Channapatna’s dreams. Around 5000 toys were sold in a week earlier, but now it has come down to 3000 a week.
Recently, the GST on handicraft items have been reduced which have brought smiles here and they are hopeful this may create some change in the present condition.