Young World

Toys’ story

Sailing on: Tradition Kondapalli toys. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

Sailing on: Tradition Kondapalli toys. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy   | Photo Credit: G_Krishnaswamy

Kondapalli toys are colourful, hand-crafted and have been around for over five centuries.

In any craft exhibition, one of the attractive items are the brightly coloured wooden toys, vivid in their reds, greens and yellows. They are the hand-carved Kondapalli toys known as Kondapalli Bommalu made in Kondapalli near Vijaywada, dating back several centuries. It is a craft which has not lost its skill.

The toy-makers migrated from Rajasthan around the 16th century, bringing their toy craft to Kondapalli. The artisans have maximum sales during Navarathri, when Bommai Kolus on various themes are exhibited.

The tools — a set of knives of different sizes and shapes — are made by the artisans themselves. The knives are like shallow sickles, sharp at the edges and have a pointed edge. The brushes which are used for painting are also made by the artists.

The dolls are crafted from “Punki” a wood which is obtained from local forests and seasoned for years. The legs and the torsos are done from a single piece of wood, then the arms carved separately and joined to the main body. To give a seamless effect, makh — a paste made of sawdust mixed with cooked tamarind seed powder — is applied over defects, and to build up features like hair knots and turbans. This is smoothened on with the horn burnisher.

After the figure is filled, it is rubbed with batana — cooked tamarind seed powder in paste form — on a cloth. The gold paper is stuck on with resin gum from the tumma tree and the figure is painted with powder paint mixed with the same gum. Men do the carving while women mix and apply the paint.

Changing art

There are few artisans practising this traditional craft now. Unfortunately, some of the processes have been shortened, like the rubbing with the batana as the final finish, and the neglect of proper seasoning of the wood produces inferior toys. Some NGOs have insisted on the artisans using natural dyes to make it safe for the children to play with.

Small changes have crept in, like using Fevicol instead of gum. Originally, natural dyes were used, making the Kondapalli toys safe for children, indigo used for blue, turmeric powder for yellow, and both mixed to create green. In recent years, some artisans use enamel paints to make them look shiny with less effort. Gold and silver foil for embellishments have been replaced by strips of silver and gold paper.

The themes vary from mythological to the modern. Some deviations are present, where miniature household utensils are made for the children to play with. The Krishna theme and the Dasavatharam are popular with the artisans, and there is reverence in carving these figures, considering they are better crafted.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:10:01 AM |

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