Toys of Northern India



The Kites

No account of toys is complete without kites. Kite flying is a passion in rural India. They come in all shapes and sizes with tails, decorated with bright colors, at times even made at home. Boys are virtually trained in the art of kite flying. Untrained boys are not even allowed to touch the kites. Their role is relegated to holding the spindle with the thread. With time they slowly graduate to holding up the kite to fly and finally learning to handle it. A boy is recognized only after he has successfully maneuvered his kite to bring down a couple of others.

Toys of Northern India

The use of toys in the celebration of festivals, apart from increasing the creativity and imaginative skills of children, help them to understand the cultural traditions and customs. In the North, during the festival of Janmashtami, colorful tableaus depicting the birth of Lord Krishna are created.


The children spend plenty of time getting hold of things to make the tableaus as authentic as possible. Clay models of Lord Krishna as a baby in a cradle; Krishna dancing surrounded by gopis or dancing on the hood of a cobra are all made by local toy makers and colored brightly. These are arranged within the tableau. Mountains, River Yamuna, huts and cows are also depicted within the tableau.

Similar to this is Dussehra (Navratri) celebration in the South, popularly called kollu. Dolls are arranged in steps for the nine days of the festival. The pair (male & female) red sandalwood doll from Tirupati is the most important part of the Kollu. This is clothed in beautiful fabrics or paper and adorned with jewelry.

Mainly clay images and figures of gods and goddesses are kept. The highlight of the Kollu is a replica of the shop of the local shopkeeper and his wife. The shop has utensils, clay items, clothes everything, which the local shopkeeper sells. Various rangoli (floor decorations), banners, handicrafts from beads and glass are made by the women folk. Other such festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra and Durga Puja in the East.

In Punjab a very innovative method is followed to enhance the child's creativity. Wheat flour dough is given to the child to mould it into any object he or she likes. The child can play with the dough safely. Dough alternates for the expensive plasticine.


Toys in South India

Apart from dolls, kitchen sets are another novelty in the South. The potter makes tinier versions of the pots, while the coppersmiths and bronze smiths make miniature vessels for the children to play with. The ceramic ware man makes little cups and mugs. These sets are replicas of all utensils used in the household.

Although most of the toys are meant to amuse the child, some of them have acquired the dimensions of crafts. This includes the traditional wooden toys made at Kondapally near Andhra Pradesh. Made from soft wood called ponki, the wood is further treated with boiled tamarind juice and lime paste. The toys are carved and painted in bright hues. The most famous toy carved is the Ambari elephant. Equally famous are the lacquered wooden toys of Ettikoppaka (in Andhra Pradesh). Made from a wood called ankudu, they are polished, lacquered and painted.

Handicrafts Trade
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History Tradition