GUEST POST BY HARJEET KAUR
On our little trip to a quaint village named Kondapalli, which is just about 40 kms away from Vijayawada, my hometown, I found these beautiful toys which made me nostalgic. I thought of the modern toys we buy for our kids these days and remembered the amount we would throw away every other month because they were either broken, cracked or dusty in a corner.
* Wood, unlike plastic, is biodegradable.
* These items are handmade, organic and traditional and the art is worth preserving.
* Instead of buying machine-made flimsy stuff, I think we could help boost sales, thereby benefitting the artisans.
* There are little planters, flower vases and instruments, too, which can be kept as display items at your place of work.
* It is a complete mood booster to have these colourful handmade artefacts around your house.
When we set out for the hamlet on the hill (konda), armed with sun hats, parasols and refreshing drinks, the sun was harsh. We used GPS, made inquiries and finally reached the quiet but colourful colony.
This village is internationally famous for its handmade toys or Kondapalli Toys. Here, all the crafting takes place in Bommala Colony which means Toys Colony. The toys made here are distinctive due to the material, method and themes used for the same. The toys are very colourful and attractive to the eyes.
Despite all the modernization, Kondapalli still remains a cottage industry with a few families, in and around the village, carrying on this tradition. I still remember the time when my mom had bought me some lovely Kondapalli toys when I was a kid. They came packed in boxes made of palm leaves. I would also see Kondapalli dolls (Bommala Koluvu) displayed at my neighbour’s place during Sankranti/Navrathri.
I found the whole process of doll making fascinating and had a newfound appreciation for this dying art. The karigars (artisans), who create the toys, are referred to as Aryakhastriyas and are said to have migrated from Rajasthan in the 16th century. They claim their origin to Muktharishi, a sage endowed, by Lord Shiva, with skills in arts and crafts. Kondapalli toy making is a 400-year-old art and the process of making these dolls is very intriguing. We visited some of the workshops there and Srinivas, one of the artisans and owner of the place, explained how the wood is first carved out and then the edges are given a smooth finish. He showed us his primitive but sharp curved tool with which he did the chipping. The latter step involves colouring with enamel paint, watercolours or vegetable dyes for export.
The artisans at one time produced mythological figures of animals, birds, bullock carts laden with sacks, rural life, etc. The most prominent were the Dasavataram and the dancing dolls, that shake their heads and waist in tandem when prodded. There was this cute and funny old couple doll whose heads were bobbing continuously. The expressions and body shape made it impossible for our smiles to fade away.
Tella Poniki Wood
The material used, for making these artefacts, is softwood, known as Tella Poniki, available in the nearby forests. It was heartening to see the patriarch himself working on the dolls while both his sons assisted him. The Tella Poniki timber was being cut by a machine into suitable blocks. Every part of the body of a doll is broken up into pieces and then each part is inserted into the other, like legs, head and arms. To smoothen, each part is chiselled and filed. They are then glued together. After that, a tamarind and sawdust paste is used to cover the cracks. The rough parts are again smoothened out before the toys are allowed to dry. This is followed by the application of vegetable dyes or paints.
Initially, the karigars used only vegetable dyes for colouring, but, then moved to synthetic paints to speed up their work and lower the prices. Vegetable dye-based artefacts are in high demand in the international markets, according to Satyanarayana, owner of another manufacturing unit. The only drawbacks of using vegetable dyes these days is that the artefacts get costlier as they need to be very carefully handled. Even a tiny drop of water can damage the piece. In short, only those with patience can handle such intricate work. To add to the longevity of the vegetable dyes the karigars apply a coat of lacquer polish which gives the toys a longer shelf life as well as a glossy finish. The result is these colourful, flawless toys in different shapes and sizes.
Now-a-days, there is a bit of innovation in the form of new themes and products being introduced. “There are angry birds, Hanuman and Krishna statues and a few Rajasthani dolls which are brought raw and then painted in the village”, said Satyanarayana. After enjoying this little village, on our way back home, we set out on our journey with a little booty of handmade Kondapalli toys packed nicely in palm-leaf baskets. Nostalgia!
What are your thoughts about these toys? Do they make you feel nostalgic, too?
About the Author
Harjeet is a freelance content writer and a versatile blogger. She is an enthused, traveller and loves walking the roads less travelled. She loves cooking for family and friends. Her secret ingredient, ‘love’, is abundantly used while she prepares her delicacies. She shares her travel and food tales on her blog. Other topics that she writes about are lifestyle, beauty, fitness and mental health. Spreading smiles is what she does and sprinkles love along the way.
Images from the internet.