India is a land of elusive art where each state distinct from another and has something unique to offer. There is no doubt that the state of Andhra Pradesh is culturally rich, defined by its exceptional artistic domains. The invincible layers in handicrafts, dance forms, cuisines, heritage, literature and religion are all visions of some absolute fine art forms that are embedded within the state. Yet I feel surprised that the state has failed to attract the tourists despite the abundance of inheritance.
I recently visited Amaravati, near Vijaywada to attend the 1st ever Global Festival of Dance and Music organised by Andhra Pradesh tourism board to promote Amaravati as an upcoming cultural destination.
It was indeed pleasing hearing those soulful voices that I miss in music industry today.
An honour to see the likes of Dr. L. Subramanian, Pt. Birju Maharaj, Hema Malini, Kavita Krishnamurti, Talat Aziz, Anoop Jalota, Suresh Wadkar, Sivamani all performing on one stage.
I had flashes of my childhood days as they were playing right in front of my eyes. The delight was added further with an experience of hot air ballooning, para-motoring, water sports and camping experiences against the backdrop of Pavitra Sangamam of river Krishna and Godavari
It was during this time that I visited to the toy village of Andhra Pradesh called Kondapalli and indeed it was interesting
Want to know about this Village? Read on….
Kondapalli- The Village
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 has an expert of making the wooden toys.
I saw toys in many shaped on display here including figures of deities which has been made in this village for the last 100 years.
But more than the wooden toys, the village has gained popularity for the manufacture of dancing dolls, which is an art adopted from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Hence these dolls are also known as Thanjavur dolls, which is famous throughout Andhra Pradesh
The Art of Making Toys
The artisans who work on crafting these wooden toys are known as Arya Kshatriyas, which apparently has got a mention in the Brahmanda Purana. They are said to have migrated from Rajasthan in the 16th century to Kondapalli and claims their origin to Muktharishi, a sage endowed with skills in arts and crafts by Lord Shiva
The Kondapalli 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 toy making because its light weighted and easy to carve. The process is quite detailed and requires minute observations.
Each wooden piece is subjected to slow heating to draw out all the moisture. Each limb is separately carved and joined to the body with an adhesive paste of tamarind seeds and given a coating of lime glue. This is followed by painting the toy with water or oil colours with the help of fine brushes.
They mainly work on producing figures from mythology, animals, birds, bullock carts and the most notable amongst the one is called Dasavataram, 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 Dancing Dolls
The Thanjavur dancing doll has become an integral part of the renowned Kondapalli craft.
A villager told me that it was in 2002 that an artisan named Chavala Uma Maheswara Rao started the manufacturing of the dancing doll. He would manufacture dolls in different styles–Hindu goddesses, Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Manipuri dancers. With time, dancing dolls became synonymous with Kondapalli art and today the demand for the dancing doll across Andhra Pradesh is so high that they are unable to meet the targets.
I guess that’s why it’s not surprising that I could see dancing dolls in very shape and size being sold in every manufacture cum toys’ selling shop in Kondapalli.
Of late, lack of availability of the wood has led the artisans to shift their focus on promotion of these dancing dolls, rather than their very own art of Kondapalli light-weight Toy Making, which has created a great demand for them.
A soon to be Dying Art?
But unfortunately this art form which has got patronage from the rulers in ancient times is declining due to lack of profits and time taking procedure. 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 the toy-making.
Though efforts have been made by 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…
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