'Toy'ing with folk art

In India, the most ancient toys recovered by archaeologists belong to the Indus Valley civilisation dating from 2,500 to 1,700 BC.

The excavations on the sites of Mohenjodaro and Harappa have brought out the toys, which have got closest affinity to the handmade toys of a much later age.

By that time, man started leading a settled life and was mostly agriculturist. Man harnessed nature to serve him. Animals like the cow, buffalo, horse etc. were domesticated. The toys of that period were, therefore, the replicas of human beings, farm-carts, cows, sparrows, other birds and animals and objects of daily amusement like rattles, whistles, balls etc.

Toy-making in India has become an important and profitable industry. Now the toys are made not only of clay, but also of a number of other materials such as metal, paper, wood, bamboo, cloth etc.

Clay is the only material that is abundantly available in all parts of the country. Therefore, clay toys are made all over India. They are generally created with the help of moulds.

The well-kneaded clay is pressed in the mould and then the different parts of the mould are joined together, forming an individual figure. This is then baked in the sun or fire and is later painted with different colours. Artisans prepare these clay toys during village fairs and festivals.

Wood is another suitable material used for toy making. In India, wooden toys are made by carpenters who specialise in toy making. The carpenter at first sketches the required figure on a piece of wood with a pencil and then chisels it with small instruments.

The wood is chiselled till a rough model of the required shape is prepared. Then he works on the same with finer instruments, cutting out details of the different parts of the body.

The toys are made of soft wood such as walnut, sandal, red wood, rose wood, ebony and deodar, which are easy to carve on.

Bronze and brass are chiefly used for making metal toys. In rare cases, copper is also used. Since these metals are heavy, the toys of these kinds are comparatively heavier than the other toys.

The metal toys which are commonly made in India are bullock carts, horses, elephants, camels, temple raths, swans, small images of different gods and goddesses and miniature pots, pans and other household utensils.

Waste and worn out pieces of cloth are also used for making toys. These pieces are washed in washing soda and are then coloured using dyes. The craftsmen then draw outlines of the object on a piece of cloth. On a big sheet of cloth, a number of figures are outlined in a way that not even an inch of the cloth goes waste.

These are then cut out and stitched together. Now fine sawdust is stuffed in these stitched gloves tightly, till all the details of the object get prominence. Sometimes the various parts of an object are prepared separately and then stitched together.

Since toys represent the various aspects of human life, they serve the purpose of developing the minds of children; toys indirectly help to mould their personality and character.

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