Pride of Telangana: The effervescent Nirmal toys and Craft from Telangana


Pride of Telangana

Who doesn’t like toys? These attractive and beautiful articles of play amuse children and adults alike. The art of toy making can be seen in every corner of our country aptly making it a land of toys. The tradition of narrating stories through handmade dolls or ‘kathputlis’ is still prevalent in most parts of the country. Often stories from our epics were connoted through the means of toys.

Nirmal traditional toys and paintings hold a special place in the handicrafts of Telangana. Nirmal district in Adilabad district in Telangana was once famous as a production centre of cannons and toys. The foundries established here supplied ammunition to the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It is believed that Nirmal art was brought here by the Naqqash families of Rajasthan who migrated here during 17th century.  Nirmal art is the art of making exquisite wooden toys and paintings.

The style of Nirmal toys and craft is a striking amalgamation of Indian and Mughal art – the floral designs and murals from Ajanta and Ellora combined with the Mughal miniature art. These toys are produced from the locally available softwood called poniki or white sander. A mixture of sawdust in tamarind seed paste, called Chinta Lappam, is used as a base to smoothen and give shape to the toy. When dried, the toys are painted with an herbal extract that gives a golden shine to them. Besides the Duco paints, oil paints and enamel colours are used for colouring these toys.

These Nirmal toys are made by the Nakkash artisans in bulk. The quantity of these toys that each artisan prepares depends on the size of the toys that are being manufactured. Then the wood is cut and brought into the desired shape and colours are added. The Nirmal artisans often recreated different personalities through their art from epics, narratives, folklore, and stories that were widely accepted by the kings, royalties, and the common people alike. Initially, figurines based on Indian mythology and motifs inspired by Mughal culture were the major theme of Nirmal toys and craft. Later, with changing times, Nirmal toys saw a major transition, and utility items, furniture, and home decors came under the purview of this art. Nirmal handicrafts typically include toys, plaques, furniture, jewellery, paintings, etc. Often considered to be ideal gifts and souvenirs, Nirmal toys and craft ware occupy a special place in the world of Indian traditional handicrafts. The successful journey of Nirmal artisans over decades shows that even in the present age where modernization has taken over completely, there still remains many connoisseurs of art who believe in patronizing and promoting our traditional art forms. Traditional handicrafts like Nirmal art have given a unique identity and a sense of pride to the small villages from where they originate. Wooden handicrafts are always considered an ideal means of decoration for homes and offices.

Of late, Nirmal artisans have received many awards and showcased their craft at several prestigious venues and exhibitions both in India and abroad. To meet the changing demands and to survive in the modern competitive world where plastic has massively taken over the entire range of traditional wooden toys and craft, these artisans have diversified their ancient art with a new range of artifacts like wooden boxes, key chains, handcrafted jewellery items, divine idols, table lamps, and other decorative items. The wide range of colours and craftsmanship makes these toys an absolute delight.

With the view of patronizing Nirmal art and artisans and sustaining this art form, the artists in this town together created an artisans' co-operative society, The Nirmal Toys Industrial Cooperative Society in the year 1955. Nirmal toys and art received the Geographical Indication Tag in 2009. These toys are easily available in Government Handicraft stores like Lepakshi and Cauvery.