Traditional Toy Making in India



Child And Nature

It is nature that rural children look to when it comes to toys and playing. What touches one's heart is the simplicity of these toys that provide not just amusement to the child but also the means to learn while playing.

The list of toys characteristic of rural India is endless; from whistles, toy trains, catapults, and marbles to swings. Unlike the mechanical mindless GI Joes and Barbie dolls of today, these toys are more natural and close to real life. They teach a child about the bounty of nature and enable understanding and appreciation of nature from an early age.

Rattle, The First Choice

When the child is born, the rattle is the first choice to amuse it with. It may be made from wood, cane, bamboo and palm leaf. The wooden rattle is painted brightly to catch the attention of the child. The cane or bamboo ones are woven into a small box shaped size with a handle attached. The box is filled with stones or trinkets or marbles which produce sound when shaken.

Another contraption is the wooden fan tied to the crib. The fan moves with the wind and keeps the child lying in it amused for hours together. The dugg duggi is another variant of the rattle. Traditional ones are made with wood and leather but improvisation takes place with paper. Paper is softened in water and used to form the core, which is then covered with paper and color. Strings, with mud balls or stones at the end, are attached to either side. The core is attached to a stick to resemble a lollipop. When the stick is shaken left to right, the mud balls or stones attached to the string on either side hit the core to produce sound.

Children in Kerala have another interesting item. A tender stem of the plantain tree is cut to about 14 inches. This stem is cut vertically (till midway) into three parts to resemble a stem with two leaves. When this is shaken, it makes a phat phat kind of sound. The advantage of such an object is that once it is crushed or broken another one can be fashioned almost immediately.

The abundant natural raw material present around the villages is used to fashion harmless, interesting and inexpensive toys. These toys are biodegradable and made from environment friendly products. Old clothes and other fabrics are used to make stuffed toys and animals. Rajasthani stuffed toys originated from these. The toys could be horses, elephants or birds to which are then added a dash of colour with old zari (gold thread) borders. Animals are also fashioned out of jute and coir.

Wood and clay are almost a part of all toys made in rural areas, as both are commonly available. The wooden cart, lakdi ki kathi is a legend. The pull cart with wheels trailing behind a child is a part of the Indian countryside. Made from wood and colored brightly, it may be in the shape of an animal or at times just a flat cart. Drawn with a string, it follows the child through mud and dust.

The dolls are made of clay and then dressed in cloth. Scenes of "ghar ghar" (house games) or the conducting of mock weddings are enacted with these clay dolls in many a village across the country. Clay and papier-mâché parrots, peacocks, elephants, horses, cows and goats are the repertoire of rural children.

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