VISAKHAPATNAM: Almost every household in South India has at least one piece of Etikoppaka toy or decorative item made from the indigenous Ankudu plant and painted and lacquered with natural dyes and tree sap. When the popularity of these toys began to wane, artisan CV Raju decided in 1988 to resurrect the 500-year-old craft. Since then, Raju and the other villagers of Etikoppaka have remarkably increased the presence of these toys in every nook and cranny of the world. Today, CV Raju of Etikoppaka village near Visakhapatnam received the fourth-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, the Padma Shri, for his efforts in reviving the art.
“I would rather consider it a respect for the Etikoppaka craft, which has been sustained for 500-odd years. Be it CV Raju or whoever else, it is the craft that should last forever,” CV Raju told TNIE. “After India’s independence, most villagers became agriculturalists, and my grandfather founded this cooperative society in 1952, which had become so sickened by 1988 that I began exercising in the most sustainable way possible in terms of rural employment, materials, and income,” Raju recalled.
He has been exporting these toys to abroad, such as Pennsylvania, Canada, east Europe, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, and Philadelphia, since 1992. Today, 160 artisan households from the village of Etikoppaka are involved in this craft, and nearly 30,000-33,000 toys per month are made. “It is difficult to estimate the time we dedicate for making a toy as it is of different sizes and shapes. The focus is always on maintaining the quality,” he stated.
Previously, the items were meant for decorative and playing, and now, the primary focus is on making toys with hand-eye coordination, identifying shapes, colours, animals, birds, and push-pull toys for pre-primary school children, he added.
“For the second inning of reviving the crafts of Etikoppaka toys, I am planning to establish an interpretation centre that talks about the origin, history, diversification, and factors behind the sustainable process of this craft. While holding training courses on the art, this also intends to diversify the commercialisation of natural colours for use in furniture, as toners, as a substitute for currently used harmful chemicals,” he explained. CV Raju is one of the seven persons from Andhra Pradesh who have been chosen for the prestigious Padma Shri awards.