Patience is a timeless virtue. As a tradition, it has been inherited by the artisans of Kondapalli, Vijayawada. The name of this village strikes a heartwarming chord in the hearts of the Telugus across the nation. The world famous Kondapalli Aatabomma is a mesmerising attempt at capturing the grace and movement of a dancer. It brings back memories of childhood homes with cheerful wooden toys and conversation with the village folk.
Kondapalli Toys History
Kondapalli toy making is a 400-year old art form that originated in Krishna district's Kondapalli town, Andhra Pradesh. Stories from the locals recall a migration of artisans from Rajasthan to Andhra Pradesh in the 16th century. The Geographical Indication of Goods Act, 1999 marks Kondapalli for its specific toy-making practice, aiming to preserve the reputation and native artistry of the region. These craftsmen are generally referred to as Aryakhastriyas or Nakarshalu. Today, the makers of these toys range from beyond the Aryakhastriya community. Men and women from different villages come together with a single cause. Kondapalli is a community which takes pride in her heritage and gives the country the gift of ongoing legacy.
This art form has been the centrepiece of an age-old Indian festival. A showcase of these toys known as “Bommala Koluvu” is famously known to make appearances during the celebration of Sankranthi every year. The children look forward to being spectators of the show-stopping display of radiant toys. The communities get creative and adopt distinct themes for the arrangement of toys in colonies. Toys are set in groups imitating various scenes ranging from snake shows, animals and birds to mythology and marketplace interaction. Women are portrayed with elegantly draped sarees drawing water from wells.
The "Krishna Leela" has persistently been the most memorable theme for Kondapalli toys on this occasion. Beautiful representations of little Krishna's gimmicks as a child are shown sitting on a table covered in cloth. A dense group of children loiters around the "Bommala Koluvu" and make conversation about the culture that they shall grow up to pursue. This gives us many reasons to promote the traditional craftsmen of Kondapalli, who strive to keep their art alive during these times of crisis.
The Making of Kondapalli Toys
- The wood used for carving Kondapalli toys is from a locally abundant tree known as "Tella Poniki." The softness of the wood increases the ease of carving and precision in detail. However, before cutting into blocks, the wood is warmed to reduce its weight further.
- The desired shape of the toy is then drawn onto the surface. Now the artisan is no more a mere artisan. He is a sculptor of high skill and focus, patiently chiseling the outline of the toy until he achieves perfection.
- He makes the small components of the toy separately and fits them together with glue.
- The toy is slowly heated on a wire frame to stabilize moisture loss and keep the wood in good condition.
- The Karigar then prepares the 'Aakra' paste with tamarind seeds and sawdust. He applies the thick resin to shape the toy as required and to seal any cracks in the wood. In the making of animals, the Aakra paste is moulded to form physical features such as the crest and dewlap of the bull and the curve of its underbelly.
- The artisan moves on to the colouring process. Under the patronage of ancient rules, Kondapalli toymakers used natural vegetable dyes for colouring. With the advent of modernism in art, many have shifted to synthetic paint. These days, artisans turn to enamel colors since they go easy on the pocket and can be readily available. Artifacts using vegetable dyes are considered more exotic and are hence more expensive than the painted ones. However, the artisan applies a coat of sheen-lac polish on natural dyes. This prevents the vegetable dye from becoming sticky under prolonged exposure to air conditioning.