The world is sprinting towards modernization but at the same time, it’s important to hold on to the glory of our rich toy culture. We should shoulder the responsibility of keeping our heritage alive and doing that via promoting toy culture is a win-win for all! I mean why would one not want to hold on the child in themselves while simultaneously contributing to the cultural growth!?
Toys and tradition go hand in hand and Bihar is a prominent center of art and culture. It is home to a range of toy crafts such as rag dolls, stuffed puppets, clay art, wooden art, etc. Mithila, Bhojpur, Munger, Patna, etc are a few famous sites where the art culture is quite evident. The age-old ways of doll making and toy making have been registered in many travelogues and essays. Lord Byron Valencia, has documented the glory of wooden toy craft in Patliputra.
History of Toy Making
Since ancient times, there has been a defined way to make these toys that are passed from generation to generation. For instance, during doll-making, the doll’s length, breadth, and thickness are engraved on a piece of cloth and the clipped cloth is stitched in a fixed shape. Then cotton is filled to provide the desired structure. Apart from this, some artisans also make dolls and different toy types from the rag model. For this, a wire edifice is prepared. Later on, rag papers and clothes are wrapped around. For each part of the body, the cloth is clipped by making the shape from the fixed form. In both cases, special attention is given on the look of the doll. The face is made with the help of clay and plaster of paris.
Another rich tradition of making wooden-toys has been in custom in Danapur, Patna City, Lalganj, Samastipur, and Gaya. In Patna, coconut and the husk of hazelnuts are used to make attractive turtles. In the process of making wood-toys, the exercise begins with cutting the wood in small sizes and then is decorated as per the formulated design.
It’s safe to say that this one of the few traditions that has survived modernization. Toy making is still pretty evident and fun to do. If you’re a 90’s kid like me you might still cherish the ragdolls that your mom stitched for you. Even though the ragdolls have lost their appeal over the past few years but clay art is as famous as ever. Living at the banks of the Ganges we have enough supply to make clay art a regular thing! I’ll jump at a chance to preserve my culture while getting my hands dirty with some clay. Jokes apart, clay art just like other arts is divine in its own way.
Toys and Tradition
Since time immemorial, toys have been directly or indirectly linked to tradition. Several festivals in Hindu Culture involves toy making. For example, ‘Sama Chakeva’ where girls create clay idols of Sama and Chakeva and pray for the longevity of their brothers. Idols are carved out with cow dung in the case of Govardhan Puja. In addition to that, women create idols during Vat Savitri Pooja for securing a happy married life. Not to mention the popular ‘gharaundas’, tiny clay houses for Diwali!
Commercialization of Toy Craft
It is said that every child, irrespective of their gender were into toy-making which was initially for entertainment purposes. Kids always love playing with dolls and making one for themselves is enticing! Playing while grounding in tradition is surely a fun way to learn about the culture.
Soon there was a shift, these toys were not limited to entertainment they started earning these young artists a livelihood. Patna, Lakhisarai, Munger, Bhagalpur are a few popular commercial sites. Pretty much every Patnaite would love to stroll around the huge toy market laid out in front of Patna Women’s College on the eve of Diwali. People from different places come together to display a massive range of toy craft.
So what do you think about the existing toy culture in Bihar? Share an instance where you were touched by the beauty of these toys or when you took to create one of these!