Woh Bhuli Si Yaadein
Yaad hai wo din,
Jab saheliya sab khelti thi ek saath,
Ghar – ghar khelna, waah kya thi wo bat
Toys are the part of the human race since the very beginning of civilization, most of the artifacts found in the Indus Valley ruins were just playthings. India had its own set of traditional toys which took inspiration from nature and thus were very simple in construct. Most of the toys had a link with real life and helped the child learn while playing. But with smartphones taking over almost every major activity in the 21st century, a child’s play too, is not spared. Unlike the fancy toys and expensive gaming gears, yesteryear had something for each and every child, irrespective of their parents being rich or poor. As they say, the times have changed now and so have the toys. Let’s take a look at how rich India’s history of toys has been:
An inanimate object that could take the puppeteer’s emotions and turn them into its own in no time, puppets had their own primetime. They served as a medium for children to create their own stories and act it out. Puppet shows would gather a whole lot of people who would come to watch it with their extended families, puppet shows promoted communal harmony. Stories of great kings and queens and their valor, battles, epics, puppetry sums it all into one.
The American Barbie is the only doll many of us know. Contrary to the popular belief, dolls are not just casual playthings but also related to religious traditions. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Dasara festival is called Bomai Kolu or a display of dolls. A girl gets wooden dolls called Marapachi Bommai from her parents during her marriage. Most of Indian girls play with dolls and own a dollhouse when they’re young. Potters have their own version of clay dolls in an angel-like appearance and are sometimes adorned like an Indian bride clad in saree. Dancing dolls with moving spring heads are also very popular.
Each one of us has been a proud owner of a miniature kitchen set when we were young. Tree leaves for vegetables, clay for roti and mud water for broth was once our go to meal. Clay and brass utensils scaled down to the greatest detail were our replacement for what we saw in the kitchen of our houses. These have inspired many young minds to take up food and kitchen as a career.
Remember the icecream-wallah on his bicycle? And that dug dug of the damru in his hand? That sound was not just a sound but a signal for happiness. Children flocked to him not just for ice cream but also to try their hand at the dugdugi. Traditionally made with softened leather and wood covered side to side. Strings with mud ball or stones are attached to either side such that when the stick is shaken left to right, strings hit the cover to produce sound.
Popularly known as the land of toys, Channapatna is about an hour’s drive from Bengaluru. A dazzling array of lacquered toys of all designs and colours adorn the numerous shops across the town. It was Tipu Sultan who first brought this Persian craft to the region by inviting Persian artisans to train his people. Families are involved in cutting, chiseling and lacquering toys from spinning tops to animal figures. Apart from being totally handmade, Channapatna toys are eco-friendly as well. The lacquer is all natural dye made, using turmeric for yellow, indigo for blue and vermilion for red, leaving a rich finish.
Toy makers across India were left in dire straits when China came up with a replacement for almost each plaything with its machine-made, inexpensive toys. Indian market was flooded with cheap Chinese goods and most of them were electronic toys which with its colorful and LED-studded appearance attracted most kids. Combined with a lack of knowledge about marketing, and middlemen who did not pay fair prices to the artisans, the industry began to flounder. But the situation improved when it was found that imports from China had toxic dyes and cheap material which was found to be unsafe for children. Traditional toys are making their way back to the hands of young kids as more and more artisans are connecting to their patrons via various e-commerce mediums.