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Creative Kondapally

V. GUHAN

Made from a soft wood called Tella Poniki, the Kondapally toys continue to delight children and adults alike...



Treasures from a tree...

Hey kids! You have seen many electronic toys in different shapes and sizes. But have you heard about toys made of wood, big in size but light in weight? It's right here in our country — in a small village called Kondapally near Vijayawada, in Andhra Pradesh.

The Kondapally toys are made mainly of soft wood called Tella Poniki that's available in plenty in the adjacent hills of Kondapally. The wood is suitable for carving artistic figures. The Kondapally artists carve images and structures relating to mythology and to social themes. The artists display a perfect blending of science, aesthetics and religion in their work.

Though there are other places which produce unique toys, the Kondapally toys are considered to be the best. The artisans are excellent wood carvers who have carved vahanas or vehicles for the presiding deities in the temples. They make temple cars and chariots strictly in accordance with the traditions. The artisans are not only experienced but are also well versed in the theoretical aspects. They have adopted the South Indian style of architecture of wood, which is evident in their work. The popular classical collection includes Dasavatars, the Gitopadesa, and events associated with the life of Lord Krishna. The mythological toys pose a great challenge, as they require skill in portraying half-human and half-animal god figures.

The colours that are used for these toys are derived from natural sources like stones, herbs, roots and gums. No chemical is used.

The craftsmen here belong to a community known as the Aryakhastriyas, who take up wood sculpture and painting as their hereditary profession. There is reference to this group in the "Brahmanda Purana". This community claims its origin to Muktharishi, who was endowed with skills in arts and crafts by Lord Shiva. These chitrakaras claim that it was their ancestors who sculpted the numerous sculptures like the garuda, nandi, simha and the vahanas in the many temples in Andhra Pradesh.

According to an art critic, Kondapally toys belong to folk art. Animals, birds, human figures representing rural life are depicted with simplicity. The poverty of a rural village is effectively delineated by an old woman who looks vacantly into the sky, sitting near her hut.

In the olden days, Kondapalli artists received patronage from the local rulers. But today these artisans are neglected due to the advent of mechanised toys. Many artisans have given up their profession and are seeking other lucrative jobs. Though the government is trying to rehabilitate this art form, it is up to us to encourage it. It is our duty to do so.

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