If you think that a part of DesiAuthentic’s duty is to acquaint you with unknown wonders of the world, you would be absolutely correct. Today, we have yet another lost piece of history that we have chosen to narrate the stories of.
Welcome to Etikoppaka. It is a small village located on the banks of the river Varaha in Vishakhapatnam, a coastal district in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The town Etikoppaka is renowned for its craft – the art of making lacquer-coated wooden toys which are known popularly as Etikoppaka toys or traditionally as ‘Etikopakka Bommalu’.
The culture of making colourful, picturesque toys from wood has been an integral part of the village’s tradition since the colonial era. Wood that is used in making these toys is locally sourced from a tree called ‘Ankudu’. A speciality of this tree is that the bark is extremely light, making it easy to chop and chisel. The bark makes for brilliant firewood and of course, the art of Etikoppaka.
The process of making a toy begins by drying the logs of wood for several weeks to dry out all the moisture. Then, the logs are roughly cut and directly put under the chisel for the artisans to get working. Toys and including shiny water jugs, bowls, figurines of shepherds, sparrows, spinning tops and such are intricately designed by the artisans. While making the toys, a colourless resinous secretion of certain species of insects is used. It is called ‘lac’. Vegetable dyes are mixed with lac and left for oxidation. The result is a rich and coloured lacquer which is the signature ‘lac dye’ used for colouring and decorating the toys.
Not only do the artisans create toys such as canon toys, bullocks, lord Ganesha idols, shepherds, etc. but also usable bowls for water and food that have been widely used in kitchens since the past 400 years. The inherent beauty of this art-craft lies in creating ultra-smooth wooden surfaces and giving them shiny surfaces along with water proofing for the protection of wood. Then, the ever-famous application of lacquer, which gives the toys their distinctive appeal.
Over time, the art has suffered the consequences of time. It has had difficulties retaining its uniqueness as machinery brought fierce competition to the art. Synthetic lacquers and other chemicals took spotlight instead of natural dyes. The Chinese market too played a huge role in the overpowering of local toy market.
Today, just about 200 artisan families reside in and around Etikoppaka who work day and night to survive and preserve their wonderful craft. It’s only now that the artform is getting the recognition it deserves. With social workers, governments and most importantly, the public cherishing its glory, it has just begun to make headlines. DesiAuthentic takes pride in playing its role in the preservation of forgotten stories.
The gorgeous handmade toys are great for gifting your loved ones, as a keepsake, as decoratives and as toys for your children. Each toy is unique and tells the story of an Etikopakka artisan. Also, everything from the manufacturing to usage, the story of these toys is ‘green’. They are sustainable, stylish and simple.
We have a wide collection of toys brought to you directly from Etikopakka. We request your patronage for the traditional art form to survive.
Do your bit and support the artisans of Etikopakka here: https://www.desiauthentic.com/collections/etikoppaka-toys