The craft of toy making

handmade joy

exquisite Cloth dolls Photo by Dilip Banerjee

The craft of toy making is an important part of this vast handicraft industry — a rich tradition thriving in different parts of the country.

The diversity of this craft is immense and provides prominence to various states acknowledged for producing widely famous ethnic toys made of clay, wood, cloth, jute, metal, pith cane, leather and bamboo. Beautifully crafted with skilled hands, these toys made in the form of animals, dolls or deities are predominantly seen as children’s play things, but in reality, they play a significant role in promoting the culture and tradition of the specific area beyond its geographical limits, besides symbolising the religious sentiments of the artisans.

The state of Madhya Pradesh is renowned across the country for its clay toys. Much fame is brought to the state through the contribution of artisans belonging to the Gond tribe, popularly acknowledged for its cultural heritage. The tribesmen excel in wood craft and bamboo craft and showcase their talent in the shape of various handcrafted items.

The role of local and tribal people in promoting the culture of handmade toys is absolutely undeniable in various regions. The sole reason the craft manages to survive is that it is carried on as a tradition through generations. In Assam, it is said the traditional art of making cloth dolls is taken more as a family custom where daughters eagerly learn the skill from their mothers. The Goal Para community of Assam is famous for its toys made of clay and cloth.

Although the animal form remains the most popular form of making toys, bride and groom dolls, mythological figures and religious deities also enjoy the fascination of artisans as well as that of buyers. These toys are best showcased during religious festivities and regional carnivals.

Craftsmen can go to any length to experiment with the choice of medium to furnish a toy. It is said that in Andhra Pradesh, artisans make use of a mixture of clay, cow dung and saw dust to make toys which are later neatly and beautifully painted in bright colours.

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