The toy story

Toys have a special place in everyone’s life. Loved by all, folk toys are now dolling up our lives all over again…

The word ‘toy’ takes me to my childhood days. During the hot summer afternoons, like all children, I too was restricted in the periphery of my home. My grandmother would say summer afternoons are most dangerous for children, and they should stay indoors. Grandparents always pacify children with some or the other stories and fairytales. During those hot and humid days since none of my friends were out to play, my most cherished toys kept me entertained. The good old childhood days remind me of some of my first virtual friends – toys. Coming in all shapes and sizes, colourful toys are every child’s friends.

As children grow and mature the number of toys also increases in their lives. A newborn child is welcomed by colourful jhunjhunas. With time, dolls, kitchen sets, doctor sets, piggy banks, miniature cars, toy planes, electric bikes, eventually become a child’s favourites. Brands like Fisher Price, Funskool, Mattle are busy adding newer varieties of toys to attract children. Barbie dolls were a rage during my childhood days. But today’s generation have much more on offer than a simple Barbie doll and a kitchen set. They have Xboxes, PSPs and much more. As attractive these toys and games are, they are taking away the charm of our simple small but equally exciting traditional toys.

Beautiful friends

The plastic and metal toys, which are sold in cities, attract our younger ones. These are the newer versions of toys. In India, the most ancient toys, discovered by archaeologists, date back to the Indus Valley Civilization, between 2500 and 1700 BC. The toy industry first flourished during the early days of the Indus Valley Civilization when the craftsmen manufactured beautiful toys and artifacts for the children. As civilizations changed, man harnessed the nature of toys according to his needs. Remote controlled cars replaced wooden farm carts while clay miniatures of birds and animals were replaced by high-end dolls.

Children from villages, different ethnicities and backgrounds still rely on what we call folk toys. The traditionally indigenous hand-made toys still catch fancy of kids living in rural and semi urban set up. Not much is written and heard about handmade toys. Though the efforts of NGOs like Dastkaar, toys designed by rural artists and craftsmen are displayed at various cultural fairs. And the trend to buy the folk flavoured toys is now catching up in the country.

Today, folk toys are not just used as an item of play for children. These are for various other purposes, and gifting is one of them. People gift the colourful handmade toys to their friends or choose to put them as a showpiece. Wooden idols of Ganesha, Laughing Buddha and wooden horses are some of the most common showpieces you would find at any of your friends’ place.The traditional handicraft industry displays the lively traditions of the state that are portrayed through the wonderful creations of the village craftsmen.

Handmade terracotta dolls, wooden carts, cloth puppets, are now doing well in the market. The conventional handicraft industry from all across the country reflects the rich cultural tradition of each of the Indian states. Celebrating the vibrant and dynamic artistic skills, folk toys are work of imaginative creations. Handmade toys made not only from clay, but also from various other materials like paper, wood, bamboo and cloth. We bring you types of folk toys that are famous in the rural set ups. Must invest small amount of your money in these and they will beautify your house and life for sure…

Clay toys

Clay is perhaps the only material that is found in abundance in all parts of the country. Since, India is a tropical country, there is no dearth of the material. Made all over the country through the use of moulds, clay toys are made by aptly kneading the clay. The properly kneaded clay is pressed into the moulds. Moulds depicting the hands, feet and head are made, and joined together to come out with a figure – animals, dolls, birds etc.

These earthen toys are strengthen by baking them in the sun or fire kilns.These toys are then painted with different colours. These clay toys are generally sold at the folk fairs and festivals. Clay dolls from Rajasthan are dolled up by ghaghra cholis, ornaments, traditional jewellery. Each region has different types of clay toys. The ones from Gujarat, Chattisgarh or Bengal depict the culture of the traditions of the state they hail from.

 Wooden toys

You must have noticed wooden horses, cows, or monkeys at local folk hubs like Dilli Haat. Rural carpenters, who specialise in toy making, craft these beautiful wooden toys out.Making a wooden toy is a tedious process which starts from sketching the toy figure on a piece of wood. The sketch is cast by a pencil. After sketching, the figure is chiselled out from the wooden piece using small working instruments. The raw figure is further chiselled to give a perfect shape. Finer instruments and a lot of handwork goes into casting out a wooden toy.

Made from mainly lighter forms of wood like walnut, sandal, rose wood or ebony, the toys are then painted. An array of colour is used to showcase the body details. The craftsmen artistically paint every part of the body of a toy, which come in forms of animals, human faces, gods etc. Wooden dolls from Bengal, animals from Gujarat and birds from the southern parts of the country are most famous in the country. During the famous Puri Rath Yatra, small wooden figurines of lord Jagannath are sold all across Orrisa.

Cloth Toys

When you talk about cloth toys, I simply adore puppets. Made from waste and worn out pieces of cloth, these toys have an unusual charm. The process of making cloth toys is simple, they are first washed in soda, and then coloured in different shades of attractive colours – red, blue, green. The toy artist would then draw the required figure on the coloured cloth. Usually, the procedure is done on a large sheet of coloured cloth, so that the material is not wasted.

The drawn figure – hands, legs, head, is cut out and stitched. Saw dust is then filled in the hollow parts of the cloth, till the desired shape is formed. With the process, all details of the toy get prominence. Fine quality of cloth toys come from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat.

Photo: Dilip Banerjee

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