Kondapalli toys are the most recent category of handicrafts to obtain Geographical Indications (GI) protection in India, being only the second handicraft from the state of Andhra Pradesh to receive such protection. Made in the village of Kondapalli on National Highway No. 9, 25 km from Vijaywada, this art form can be traced back to the times of Sri Krishna Deva Raya.
Toy making in Kondapalli is an intricate process which even to this day is done only by hand by using a special type of wood known as ‘Tella Poniki’ or white sander, grown specially in the lands earmarked for the purpose in villages surrounding Kondapalli. Each organ of the body is separately carved after the wood is seasoned and cut to appropriate sizes, and joined together with an adhesive paste derived from tamarind seeds. A coating of ‘sudda’ (white lime) is given over the surface. It is then placed on a ‘kumpati’ (charcoal fire) to allow the moisture to evaporate, leaving the toy firm and solid. A cloth is then fixed on top of the makku-covered toy, further reinforcing the strength. The toys are then coated with a primer and the distinctive colours are then applied using a goat brush. Vegetable dyes, oil paints or enamel paints are used for the distinctive colouring of these toys depending on whether they are to be exported sold within India, or are to be used for special occasions respectively.
These toys depict beautifully fashioned single figures of deities or vignettes of rural life. The ‘elephant ambari’, toddy tree and ‘Dashavaatara’ are the most popular of the Kondapalli toys. Fine detailing of form and facial expression is one of the most distinctive aspects of these toys. Experts believe there is a strong influence of Islamic and Rajasthani cultures in the art form and are of the opinion that the artisans are migrants from Rajasthan.
It is in recognition of this inherently distinctive and intricate nature of the art form underlying these toys that the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai granted GI protection to this art form. The Confederation of Indian Industry’s Andhra Pradesh Technology Development Centre (APTDC) in collaboration with the Lanco Institute of General Humanitarian Trust had facilitated the filing of the application for grant of the GI with the legal assistance of the firm Anand & Anand.