Artisans making Kondapalli toys are facing an uphill task of acquiring raw material, a softwood known as ‘Tella Poniki’, available only in Kondapalli reserve forest for making the toys.
Sprawled in over 120 km in Ibrahaimpatnam and Mylavaram mandals, the forest provides the delicate wood to craftsmen for carving Kondapalli toys, famously known as Kondapalli Bommalu.
Kondapalli toys are chiseled out with the Tella Poniki wood and painted with glossy colours to give them an aesthetic look.
A few years ago, huge quantities of the wood was available in the reserve forest. Gradually, the softwood reserves came down owing to excessive consumption, forcing the artisans to get the wood from reserve forest areas of Mylavaram mandal.
YS Lakshmaiah, one of the directors of Kondapalli Toys Manufacturers Mutually Aided Purchase and Sales Co-operative Society Limited, said the artisans were facing many ordeals in getting the Tella Poniki wood from Kondapalli forest because of their dwindling numbers.
He said the craftsmen were getting the wood from Satyanarayanapuram,Marusumalli and Yadlapadu villages of Mylavaram mandal.
There is a high demand for the much-coveted Kondaplli toys, but the artisans are unable to hit market on a large scale as their children seem reluctant to learn the skill of toy making.
Kondapalli, famous for Kondapalli toys, has bagged national and international recognition.
Toys like ‘Dasavatarams’ (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu), elephant with Ambari, palanquin-bearers carrying bride, toddy tapper, Chatrapati Sivaji, bullock cart and peacock, are always in demand.
Their price ranges anywhere between Rs 20 and Rs 500, depending on the size and quality of the work.
A senior craftsman D Krishna said Lepakshi emporiums were supporting the sale of Kondapalli toys all over the country.
Krishna, whose ancestors were also in the same profession, has been running a Kondapalli toy shop on Khilla road for more than a decade. “I learnt the toy making skills from my father, but I am not sure if my children will opt for the same profession,” he said. Due to the scarcity of Tella Poniki softwood, many families are quitting the profession.
Now, only 50 families are eking out livelihood against more than 100 families that depended on this profession two decades ago, said Murali Krishna, a senior artisan.
He said some families earn livelihood by getting the wood from the reserve forest and sell the same to the artisans.