The Varanasi streets are busy with women making wooden toys, which was the profession for millions of families where male counterparts played a major role in keeping this traditional craft alive. Now that the Prime Minister visits his constituency of Varanasi, he is bringing back the glory to the traditional craft of Varanasi wooden toys. Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, is one of the oldest and largest cities in India. For ages, these wooden toys have been very famous. Crafters used wood to make toys after the ban on ivory. Historians state that the toys of Lord Rama originated in Kashi. These wooden toys are in great demand locally and abroad, as the colours used in painting them are chemical and germ-free and safe for children. Corea wood, which is soft, has a great demand for making these toys. Regardless, the government banned cutting this wood. The toymakers of Varanasi started to use Sheesham, Eucalyptus, and Lyptus wood to make toys, which are comparatively hard, wood, and very tough to carve.
Paraphernalia (Materials used)
Sal, or sheesham, is the raw material used. Designs are created with the natural veins of the wood.
- According to the size of the toys, pieces of wood are cut from the logs. On a low flame, these logs are heated to remove moisture from the wood, this process is a bit time-consuming.
- It is smoothed with sandpaper. Using a lathe, the wood is shaped according to desired designs, and then the toy is sent to the painting section. Several coatings are applied to get a finely finished product. For fine lines, the brush is made from the hair of squirrels’ tails.
Mythological characters like Lord Ram, Ganesh, Goddess Durga, Ravan, and Hanuman. Toys based on culture that depict people’s daily lives, such as bullock carts, rickshaws, camel carts, horse cart trains, and so on. As of now, they are also making contemporary toys for this generation, like kitchens and dining sets, cricket sets. They make toys related to all religions, not only related to Hindu traditions. Nature-theme-based toys are also made by them. According to their sizes and colour variations, prices also vary.
Chisel- Used for chopping off excess wood.
- A pen or pencil for sketching on the wood.
File Tool- It is used to smooth out the surface of a wooden piece.
- Adhesive- Used to connect the wooden parts.
Distemper- The first coat applied to a wooden toy before it is colored.
Colors- These are non-toxic colors that are used to paint the toys.
Lacquer- It is used as the final coat of paint on wooden toys to make them shine.
Brushes are used to paint the wooden surfaces.
These toys are appealing and safe playthings for children because they lack joints. The colors used are primary and vivid. Kashmiri Ganj and Khojwa are the main production hubs. The toys have a ritual significance as well and are not just for entertainment. This craft is significant in the lives of the artisans because a new lathe is added to the family’s possessions when a child is born. When a marriage is fixed, the boy’s family ensures that the bride-to-be is at ease with the lathe.
Following the Prime Minister’s assurance to these Varanasi artisans, women are now assisting their male counterparts in the production of these traditional toys. It has given these artisans a new lease on life, as they are being well-trained and taught financial literacy, including how to handle foreign exchange and how to register their products for export in order to reduce their reliance.
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