Wonders in wood
For many generations now, wooden toys have been made by artisans in various pockets of Andhra Pradesh. One such destination to source toys is Kondapalli, located near Vijayawada city in Andhra Pradesh. The place is known for its brightly coloured wooden toys, mostly representing village life — farmer couples, toddy tappers, village artisans and palanquin bearers, besides animals. “Dasavatarams”, swinging doll and elephant with Ambari are famous Kondapalli toys.
There is a belief that the artisans here who craft the beautiful Kondapalli toys trace their roots to Rajasthan. Disputing this fact may not be easy as the style and the features of the human forms resemble 17th Century Rajasthani workmanship.
The Kondapalli toys are made out of a light wood known locally as “punki”. Small pieces of the wood undergo a slow heating treatment to make it totally free of moisture. Every little part of the toy is then carved out separately. These parts are glued together using an adhesive made out of crushed tamarind seeds. Once this adhesive dries up the lime glue adhesive is applied to the toy giving it the white base colour. Bright water and oil colours are used to paint the toys, which is delicately done using soft and thin brushes made of goat's hair. Kondapalli toys depict scenes from everyday human life, deities from the Hindu pantheon and animal figures. Some of the common scenes depicted from human life are a hut with a woman cooking, a man climbing a palm tree, a woman milking a cow, a lady pounding grain, a woman spinning a wheel and children minding sheep.
The most common toys of the deities are the ten incarnations of Vishnu. Scenes from mythical stories of Shiva and Krishna are also common. There are however, toys made of lesser known deities too. Animal figures are generally depicted with human forms, where some activity is being done.
These bright coloured toys are very popular in the national and international markets. The colours and the workmanship attract people of all ages. However, the toys are not used as play things anymore; they are used as decorative pieces and collectibles.