Kondapalli toys are famous for their lightweight, vibrant colours and age-old production techniques. Themed around mythology, rural life and animals, these toys exhibit joyous and realistic expressions. The art shows the strong influence of the Islamic style and the pointed nose of the human figures is reminiscent of the 17th century Rajasthani style.
The artisans who make these toys are known as ‘Aryakshatriyas’. It is said that these craftsmen migrated from Rajasthan to Kondapalli around the 16th century bringing with them the art of crafting toys. This 400-year old tradition has passed on from generation to generation with every member taking part in the toy-making activity in the ‘Toy Colony’ of Kondapalli. There is also a reference to this group of people in the “Brahmanda Purana”. This community claims its origin in Muktharishi, who is said to have been endowed with skills in arts and crafts by Lord Shiva himself. These chitrakaras (craftsmen) claim that it was their ancestors who sculpted numerous sculptures like the Garuda, Nandi, Simha and the Vahanas in the many temples in Andhra Pradesh.
Over the years, the Kondapalli toy has become a collectable from a plaything. The shift ate into the repurchase market because, unlike children’s toys, which tend to break, collectables require little replacement. An integral part of the Dusshera and Sankranthi celebrations is the ‘Bommala Koluvu’ or ‘Kollu’ when toys are collected and ceremoniously displayed and most children and women would vie to have the grandest and most elaborate collection. The artisans of Kondapalli would make the most business during these festivals, but these traditions are slowly vanishing and with them, artisans are forced to look at measures to cut costs and switch to enamel colours instead of natural dyes.
Though there was neglect of the interests and development of the Kondapalli artisans due to the advent of mechanized toys, the scenario has completely changed in recent years. The Government, Governments departments, certain institutions and organisations are giving a helping hand in developing this industry.