Kondapalli Bommalu, symbolic of the lifestyle of the very village it’s named after, is a lineage left behind by a Rajasthani group named Aryakshatriyas of the 16th century, whose historical roots claim their patronage of the art from the times of Lord Shiva, had settled in a place, that happens to be a 20-minute drive from the likes of Vijayawada. Made of softwood, the toys in Kondapalli are entirely hand-woven with nearly 40 families in the village continuing the legacy.
A nostalgic trip to the past !
At a time, when artistic value in a steadfast world is increasingly losing its charm, Kondapalli Bommalu, also known as ‘koyya bommalu’ take us into a parallel world of yesteryear traditions, mythological story-telling and peep into those subtle aspects or activities in a mundane existence seeming so little or lilliputian in the exterior, but those, that have their own way of appreciating life better. Though the fact that the human-touch to these objects, not being threatened by the mechanics of other arenas deserves appreciation, the lack of innovation or sufficient encouragement to the craft over the years, makes it obvious that the waning art is in dire need of some resurgence.
The heart of Kondapalli is here !
The toys, for their immense relatability to daily life, animalistic figures and mythlogical roots find maximal prominence in houses during festivals such as Dussehra/Navaratri and Sankranti, for the obvious diversity on display and their use to bring togther, the ‘Bommala Koluvu/Kolu’.
Thanks to the booming tourism industry on which the country heavily relies, the toys have re-attained substantial tourist attraction over the years, in spite of the snub, it continues to get from the Government to make their presence felt aggressively in the national and international markets.
Kondapalli Bommalu, given an option, can be categorised into:
• Slice-of-life figures on the lines of a woman cooking, a cow being milked, a family riding on a bullock-cart and the lives of a potter, carpenter and farmer.
• Figures of domestic and wild animals, of which Ambari elephants are prominent.
• Mythological figures, dominated by the ‘Dashavataram’, ‘Ganesha’ and of the Lord Shiva
Facts that’ll make you go ‘WOW’ about Kondapalli Bommalu !
• The native craftsmen make use of a special use of a wood called Tella Poniki, available in forests about 40-50 kms from the village that’s soft, meagre in terms of weight and easy to be carved. The wood is later cut to a size, apt for the corresponding figure dried for a span of three weeks to ensure the lightweight nature of the same and for its moisture to evaporate. They then undergo finishing, pre-coating and painting to obtain finesse.
• An instrument named ‘bahudara’ for carving, one-of-a-kind tool used in this very region, is put to use to obtain the desired shape and then later, the wood is subsequently filed with the use of another device called ‘aakrai’ for better finishing. The sub-parts (Body, Head, Ears, Trunk, Tail) of a toy are attached to the main-body with the help of an adhesive ‘temma jiguru’, which is slowly being engulfed by the easy availability of Fevicol.
• The toy, after being carved is ridden off its rough edges by applying makku. Makku, a fine mixture of ground powder of tamarind seeds and saw dust is boiled in water to form a paste, that’s later applied using a tool labelled, palapu chekka. Interestingly, until this stage, the production is restricted to men, before women take control over the painting phases. Depending upon the quality of the toy, oil paints, vegetable dyes and even chemical colours are used.
Rooting back once again to the ‘Rajula Kaalam’!
The toys, dating back to the early 16th century belonged to the Harappan civilization, were made with resources such as clay and stone too. They were known to portray the daily lives of the residents, prominent faces besides occasional figures of birds, fruits and vegetables too.
Boiling down to the reality now!
Thanks to the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility, LANCO, since 2002, has put in place an initiative, LIGHT to aid in the manufacturing, safeguard and upgrade the living standards of about 140 families that rely on the toys to make the ends of the natives meet. The major problem however, continues to be the fact of buying wood from third-parties, which doesn’t make it economically feasible for the artisans to sustain in this profession for long. Practically speaking, a series of interviews has thrown light on the possible disappearance of Kondapalli Bommalu by the next two decades. While, the ones proficient in their craft are getting older by the day and with youngsters, not exactly showing a willingness to survive in such an atmosphere, Kondapalli Bommalu is need of real encouragement for it to not be a matter of the past !
Bring ‘Kondapalli Kala’ to your homes !
Here’s where you can have a piece of this 400-year-tradition!
1. LEPAKSHI HANDCRAFTS EMPORIUM
Lepakshi Handicrafts Emporium, Gandhi Nagar, Vijayawada – 520 003. Ph:0866-2573129
Main Road, Visakhapatnam – 530 002 Ph: 0891-2508037 Cell No.9849900935/9849900936
Gun foundry, Hyderabad & Minerva Complex, S.D. Road, Secunderabad- 500 003.
Ph: 040-27814729 Cell No.9849900939
2. 143Gifts.com (Online)
3. EthnicStop.com (Online)
4. HandPicks (Online)
Contact: [email protected]
5. Dolls of India (Art Store)