Kondapalli toys in bright and vibrant colors portray and depict themes relating to spirituality and village life falling under any one or more of the following distinct categories namely:
1) Animals and birds
2) Rural life
3) Mythological figures
4) Contemporary designs
5) Paper maché doll
The popular animal forms are cows and elephants, while swans, peacocks and sparrows are the usual forms in the birds category.
“The toys have a definite grammar of color composition of their own and a reflection of native rural life of the Telugus.”
Kondapalli toys are centred around the different vocations common to a rural life through a series of separate scenes and human figures.
“In India, the oldest toys belong to the 5000 year-old Harappan civilization. these toys were made wih natural materials like clay, wood and stone. they depicted ordinary men, women, animals, birds, fruits and vegetables as well as the important professionals who existed in those times - the potter, carpenter and farmer, among others. And these ancient toys are surprisingly similar to the handmade toys of a later date.”
The set of 24 human figures called Village people set is sold since the time Kondapalli toys have been in existence. These toys still speak the professions of then villagers - fishermen, priests, tribal people, farmers, musicians, water bearers etc. These toys have a basic body structure with different elements (music instruments, tools and clothing).
Ambari elephants, toddy tappers, pallaki bearers with bride, a woman milking the cow, a simple hut with woman cooking, men guarding are the common scenes sculpted by Kondapalli artisans.
The bulls in India are used in fields for agriculture as well as transport in rural areas. The bulls are arranged to cart the bags full of grains from one place to another by famers. In some places, bull races are conducted like horse races. The bull is worshipped as Nandi (Vahana of Lord Shiva) in Hindu mythology and bullock carts are decorated well in festivals.
Bullock cart is one of the toys which has evolved in terms of its design through the years. Both traditional cart with bulls in flat peices of wood and the simple support system and the contemporary cart are the favorite among the people.
The popular classical collection of mythological figures include events associated with the life of Lord Krishna, the Gitopadesa, Dasavatars (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu), representations of Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and other gods of the Hindu pantheon. The mythological toys pose a great challenge, as they require skill in portraying half-human and half-animal god figures.
Dastnatar (from left to right) in smallest me paint in natnl color.
Dasavatar in bigger sizes painted in enamel paints.
Paritrãnãya Sãdhunãm, Vinãshãyashcha Dushkrutãm
Dharma Sansthãpanãthãya Sambhavãmi Yuge Yuge ll
To protect the good, destroy the wicked, establish Dharma or right conduct on earth, I shall be born from age to age (said by Lord Krishna while giving the Gita Updesh to Arjun during the war in Mahabharata).
Amongst the Trinity of Gods, that is, Brahmã, Vishnu and Mahesh; Vishnu who is known as the Preserver of the Universe, seeks from time to time to redeem the world and manifests his Divine Being into the life of man as an Avatãr (Incarnation) whenever evil threatens it. It is said that the ten incarnations represent the evolution of mankind.
The ten incarnations of Vishnu are:
Matsya (The fish)
Kurma (The tortoise)
Varãha (The boar)
Narasimha (The half-man, half-lion)
Vãmana (The dwarf man)
Parshurãm (The man with an axe)
Rãm (The moral man)
Krishnã (The philosphical man)
Balarãma / Buddhã* (The spiritual man)
Kalki (yet to manifest)
*Some texts replace Balarãma to add Buddhã, believing that Balarãma was the incarnation of the sepent (Ananta) on which Vishnu reclined.
Game of Chess made out of Kondapalli toys (Contemporary design).
To promote and protect the traditional art form of 400years, LANCO through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme has launched an iniative called LIGHT (Lanco Institute of General Humanitarian Trust), in place since 2002. LIGHT has enabled about 140 Kondapalli artisan families to upgrade the quality of production and marketing of Kondapalli toys, thus keeping alive the age-old cottage industry. 80% of the beneficiaries are from SC/ST community.* Under the joint iniative of the Government and Lanco, a common facility centre for the artisans is being setup where all the orders for the Kondaplli toys would be processed and each craftsperson has been given life insurance policy up to Rs 1lakh. The craft community has been divided into 14 groups under the cluster group development programme.
NGOs have also been roped in to help. ‘Dastakar’ (Andhra Pradesh) was one of the first to encourage the artisans to work with an improved colour palette. Much later, Crafts Council (Andhra Pradesh) conducted workshops and there was a gradual return to traditional vegetable dyes. NIFT, Hyderabad introduced a product line more suited to the contemporary milieu and corporate gift items like boxes, pen knives, key holders, table clocks, pin and pen holders.
LANCO - Lanco Infratech Ltd
NIFT - National Institute of Fashion Technology
Raja Rani of different sizes (4 inches of 16 inches of height) in natural colors being painted by family members.
A delegation from Kondapalli visited the World Telugu Conference held in Singapore in 2002 opening up new vistas for their products.
Issues like cracks appearing in the toys and termite-attack was solved with the help of professionals by LIGHT. Methods were adopted to make the wood of Tella Poniki tree stronger by way of seasoning. Through Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy, efforts are on to increase the area under cultivation of these trees.
Through the efforts of LIGHT and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), Kondapalli Bommalu created only in Kondapalli district of Andhra Pradesh, are now marked with Geographical Indication (GI), a unique recognition given to products native to a specific place on earth.
A Kondapalli Toys Development Forum comprising Kondapalli Toys Artisans Mutually Aided Co-operative, Crafts Council (Andhra Pradesh), CII, Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Council, Vishwakarma Art gallery and LIGHT has been constituted to formulate strategies to promote these toys.
Now with an organized approach and support from Government and private players, artisans have been able to market their products to fetch better prices.
One family in Kondapalli also makes the popular ‘Dancing Doll’ which originally comes from Thanjavur in Chennai. The family migrated from Thanjavur to Kondapalli few years back and produces these dolls here in Kondapalli now.
These dolls are made from paper maché and molds. There are molds of different parts of the doll divided in two halves (front and back). The paper maché flat layers are rolled with the help of a pin in thin layers. The thin layers are stuck in these different molds by pressing with hands taking the impression and shape. Extra material is cut and removed. The molds are kept in sun to dry for sometime. After the basic shape is dry enough, it is removed from the mold and the front-back halves are joined using fevicol. And then, these dolls are finished and pained part by part in bright natural colors to be assembled in one piece.
Artisan S. Nagesm. ca Rao with his son producing Raja Rani toys.