Kondapalli –The Wooden Toy Village of Andhra Pradesh

There is no denying of the fact that India as a country is blessed with exceptionally rich heritage both architecturally and culturally. I guess it’s evident from the fact that every state within India is distinct from each other and showcases its own pure talent. None is less than the another. The invincible layers in traditional handicrafts, dance, cuisines, heritage, literature and religion are all visions of some absolute fine art forms that are embedded here. But, despite of abundance in talent when you see that people aren’t much valuing them, it pains a little. It is a possible reason that some of these defined art forms like Shadow Puppetry of Kerala are suffering and are at the verge of diminishing

In this blog, I shall be sharing about Kondapalli which is famous as the toy village in Amravati of Andhra Pradesh but has been struggling to keep the traditional art of toy making alive, due to its low demand

Kondapalli- The Toy Village of Andhra Pradesh

Kondapalli is a census town in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, the name of which translates to wooden toy village. Infact, I was told that the village was named Kondapalli because it’s the village of artisans where each home is an expert of making the wooden toys.

the wooden toys that has been a part of my growing up years in Kondapalli toy village of Andhra Pradesh
The wooden toys that has been a part of my growing up years in Kondapalli toy village of Andhra Pradesh

There were wooden toys in all shapes and sizes on display at Kondapalli toy village just as I entered and honestly, these wooden toys has remained has fond memory during my grown up years. I remember playing with the, for many many years and it felt nice that I could actually visit a village where these wooden toys were made and I could actually see the whole process of toy making in Kondapalli village

There were wooden toys in all shapes and sizes on display at Kondapalli toy village, which has been in existence for over 100 years now
Kondapally village has been in existence for over 100 years now. Pic Credit: Desitraveler

But what makes Kondapalli village unique apart from the wooden toys making, is its manufacture of local dancing dolls, which is an art adopted from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Hence, these dancing dolls are famously known as the Thanjavur dolls, which is famous throughout the state of Andhra Pradesh

Thanjavur dolls or wooden dancing dolls that are famous throughout Andhra Pradesh
Thanjavur dolls or wooden dancing dolls that are famous throughout Andhra Pradesh

The Art of Wooden Toys Making in Kondapalli Village

The artisans who work on crafting these wooden toys in Kondapalli village are known as Arya Kshatriyas, which apparently has got a mention in the Brahmanda Purana. It is said that these artisans migrated from Rajasthan during the 16th century to Kondapalli village and claims their origin to Muktharishi, a sage endowed with skills in arts and crafts by the Lord Shiva

An artisan at Kondapalli village showing me how they make the wooden the toys
An artisan at Kondapalli village showing me how they make the wooden the toys

The Kondapalli wooden toys are crafted from the soft wood known as Tella Poniki which is manufactured locally and can be found in the nearby Kondapalli Hills. This wood is mostly preferred in wooden toy making because the wood apparently is light weighted, which is easy to carve. The process is quite detailed and requires minutest of observation.

An old woman working on the wooden dancing dolls at Kondapalli Village of Andhra Pradesh
An old woman working on the wooden dancing dolls at Kondapalli Village of Andhra Pradesh

Each piece is then subjected to slow heat to take out all the moisture from the wood. Each limb is separately carved and joined to the body using an adhesive paste of tamarind seeds and given a coating of lime glue. This is followed by painting the wooden toys with water or oil colour with the help of fine brushes.

An artisan was already painting a frame when I reached the Kondapalli Village
She was already painting a frame when I reached the Kondapalli Village. She was too shy for the camera though

They mainly work on producing figures and idols of either the mythological gods, or animals, birds, bullock carts or Dasavataram, famously known as the wooden dancing dolls.

An artisan explained me the process “The paste which is a mix of paper and wood mesh, tapioca and white stone powder is applied on the targeted shape. Any given doll has four parts – head, body, hands and legs with the base. The perfection of the handicraft lies in how best the artisan can fix an iron ring, connecting the head to its rest of the parts in order to allow its head to swing”

The Wooden Thanjavur Dancing Dolls in Kondapalli Village

The wooden Thanjavur dancing dolls has become an integral part of the renowned Kondapalli village craft.

The artistically painted wooden door that I spotted in Kondapalli Village.
The artistically painted wooden door that I spotted in Kondapalli Village.

A villager told me that it was in 2002 that an artisan named Chavala Uma Maheswara Rao started the manufacturing of the wooden dancing dolls. He would manufacture the dolls in different styles–Hindu goddesses, Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Manipuri dancers.  With time, these wooden dancing dolls became almost synonymous with Kondapalli village art of toy making and today the demand for these dancing dolls are high, that during the peak season it get difficult to meet the targets.

The wooden dancing dolls of Kondapalli Village
The wooden dancing dolls of Kondapalli Village

I guess that’s why it’s not surprising that I could see the wooden dancing dolls in every shape and size being sold here in the Kondapalli village of Andhra Pradesh

This is one of the early wooden toy shops that I spotted at Kondapalli Village
One of the early wooden toy shops that I spotted at Kondapalli Village Pic Credit: @Desitraveler

Wooden Toys Making: A soon to be Dying Art?

Unfortunately, the art of wooden toys making which has got patronage from the ancient rulers, is declining due to the lack of profits and over time consumption. The younger generation is not encouraged enough to pursue this art further. There are barely 200 nimble-fingered artisans now which are retaining this glorious art of wooden toy-making.

An artisan showed this 40 year old picture of his family making the wooden toys at Kondapalli village.
An artisan showed this 40 year old picture of his family making the wooden toys at Kondapalli village.

Though efforts have been made by the various organisations to retain this unique craft, only time will tell if our future generation will going to see this form of art or not.

So, tell me in the comment section if you have been to the wooden toys village of Kondapalli ?

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11 thoughts on “Kondapalli –The Wooden Toy Village of Andhra Pradesh

  1. I have always wanted to know the stories beyond brilliant Indian crafts. India is rich in traditional arts and crafts. I have seen these traditional wooden toys so many times but didn’t know that so much goes behind creating these. Kudos to you for writing this story.

  2. Wow… some of them seem to be India’s own matryoshka dolls. And they can also dance so I think they are way ahead of other versions!
    Andhra is such a big state with so much to offer yet I have never managed to make a trip to the region.
    As expected, this art form is also struggling to survive. I hope more is done to help them survive. Thanks for posting the nostalgic black and white photo. Adds so much to the story!

  3. Having stayed in Secunderabad, way back in 2003 for 2 years, have a lot of pleasant memories of the place.The toy village of Kondapalli does interest me , and would love to visit to experience the culture first hand. Thanks for sharing with such beautiful pictures.

  4. I love the story you’ve put about Kondapalli and its wooden toys and dancing dolls. I love Indian art and craft. Detail-oriented, colourful and consist of thousand stories. I hope the industry is going to be there for the future generations to cherish it.

  5. I didn’t know the history behind the dancing dolls. It’s quite interesting because it’s a part of their culture. I hope this tradition will still flourish despite the continuous changes in our lifestyle!

  6. I didn’t know there exists a village, which is called the toy village. I had been to AP but never been to interiors. Would love to visit this village some day for the love of dolls.

  7. What a fascinating festival to go to. I’d love to go myself one day and see the dolls. Such much effort is put into making these. Hopefully the festival keeps going so that one day I can get there.

  8. This sounds so much like the Chennapatna Toys of Karnataka. Such a beautiful art. I hope it caries on and doesn’t vanish. Loved seeing the people behind this art.

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