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Indian Crafts >> Clay Toys
Clay Toys
Indian Crafts - Clay Toys
History of Clay Toys

In Bengal by preserving the old folk forms, these toys have made a distinct place for themselves. Pottery is one of the oldest crafts of West Bengal and is still extensively practised. It is a family craft in the villages where men, women and children in potters families work together. It is a hereditary vocation of the Pauls. Though the children starts on this pretty early it is said that to become proficient in hand modeling of this standard, 10 to 15 years are needed.

There is a charming festival in Bihar called Shyama Chak in which the entire story of the festival is related through clay images made by the girls of the household, which are built up around shyama, Krishna. The making of clay toys and images is a seasonal craft. When the festival season is over, the artisans busy themselves with making domestic utility articles.

India has a glorious tradition in toys. Historically Indian toys date back to 5000 years. The prominent figure is the mother with child, the symbol of fertility. Toys are the timeless creations and are the torches, which guide children into adult life. It is through these toys, that they are initiated into the inner mysteries, traditions & myths of their culture. The figures of Gods, Goddesses who reveal their spirit in an artistic expression are very helpful for the learning about the rituals customs & mythology. Toys are attractive & harmless playthings for children. Goalpara in Assam is known for its characteristic pinched facial renderings of the mother and child, figures & most recently bicycle riders.
Fine Art
In Bengal by preserving their old folk forms, the toys have made a distinct place for themselves. The scenes, figures and items are largely rural, like different types of peasant figures, huts, temples, carts, as also the domestic animals which are part of the country side. Some toys are in earth colour & others brightly painted. There is a series of brightly costumed dancers in various poses. Dolls from Krishnanagar in Nadia district, is a class apart. They are more like refined works of art, very finely shaped and chiseled. Two types of dolls are made, the traditional type mostly village scenes, and religious figures of deities. Their basic strength lies in the local clay from the river Churni. The traditional dolls are all moulded by hand. The work is done with care and finesse with much attention and involves more time than the usual clay toys.

Bihar has a wealth of clay toys all in abstract folk style. There is a whole array of various kinds of elephant. They are delightfully simple, yet so alive, some have even vivacious expressions. There is a remarkable dance ensemble, for instance, in which a short squatty figure with very tiny legs is surrounded by a group of dancing figures. The whole gives such an illusion of movement as through the dancers were circling round. Darbhanga has special clay toys. There is a kind ofturbaned and moustached man with four devis with their arms stretched out touching each other as in a dance for use in festivities. There is an elephant with his attendant sitting on it, his body merging in the elephants neck. In fact it seems to have no neck only a face hanging out of its body. The eyes, however, are very large and seem to have a mischievous laughter in them. Each toy is original and quite distinctive and shows tremendous liveliness of imagination.

The clay toys and dolls are mostly abstract in form. The dolls hardly have any limbs. A large variety of abstract animals are also made. Exquisite dance figures are also made in clay. Charming palanquins, sets of toy ,cooking vessels, little animals heads on wheel, perfectly adorable to look at, Horses with long legs and necks on which a rider squats, complete sets of miniature articles of worship.
The hand-made clay folk toys of Bengal are made as a child models in plasticence, by working the clay till the desired shape is achieved. The figures are baked either over a slow fire made up with rice husks or merely dried in the sun. Sometimes the figures may be painted, but the true folk toys are not. These figurines are crudely made, flat at the back and with a semblance of curvature in the front only. The arms are usually shown extended. There is no attempt at anatomical accuracy or at refinement. Though commonly about three to five inches in height, they may be as large as one foot.

The shapes and forms of utilitarian articles are mostly traditional. The psychological connection between moulding the clay in ones hands on the wheel, and in shaping the pot, as well as baking and glazing is really the connection of a god to his creation. The release or the satisfaction, in its most primitive highest aesthetic forms, comes from the intimate and organic connection between hand, eye and brain and the rhythmic movement of the soul. The source of all pottery, therefore, lies in the surviving folk pottery.

In doll-making clay, pieces of cloth & cotton are used. The items mainly made are figures of deities, animals & birds.
Basic Material : Clay, rice husks
Colouring Material : Earth colour

Basic Material : Clay, gum, wax
Colouring Material : Colours

Basic Material : Clay, pieces of cloth, cotton
potters wheel

Household articles, peasant figures, dolls and toys, images of gods and goddesses, flower pots, huts, carts, temples

set of toys made on the eve of marriage, janadala, elephant, dhakana dipo, thaga baka, sama cakeva syama cakeva, borasi fire preserver, matakuda for preparing curd, culhi oven, kothi for storing grains, morha, dhekuli, images of gods & goddesses

figures & deities, animals, birds, clay toys and dolls, clay figures, palanquins, sets of toy cooking vessels, animal heads on wheels, horses with long legs & long necks, sets of miniature articles of worship

Indian Crafts : History of Clay Toys