Nirmal toys are traditional Indian wooden toys made in the town of Nirmal in the Adilabad district in the newly formed state of Telangana in India. The Telugu movie ‘Radha Krishna’ is based on these toys.
Nirmal Art, encompassing a 400-year-old tradition of making soft wood toys and paintings, occupies a place of pride in the world of handicrafts.
The finely carved figures and dainty paintings are still being used to decorate drawing rooms in thousands of homes across the country.
Nirmal district in Telangana was once famous as a production centre of as diverse things as cannons and toys.
While the foundry supplied heavy artillery to the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Naqqash craftsmen and artists brought out exquisite wooden toys and duco paintings under the name of Nirmal Art.
The foundry was closed soon after Hyderabad’s accession but the art form has survived many ups and downs, the most impacting being the loss of its patron, the Nizam.
Elegant toys and paintings continue to be produced by the Naqqash artisans at this town located just 4 km off the new four lane National Highway No. 44 about 220 km from Hyderabad.
Though no records pertaining to their origins exist now, it is believed the Naqqash families were brought here from Rajasthan in the 17th century by Neema Naik or Nimma Naidu, the local chieftain after whom the town itself is named.
Many changes have since been incorporated in their art form obviously to suit the taste of the patrons of the time.
Initially, the Naqqash, or Jingar artisans, had produced only toys from the locally available variety of softwood called Poniki or white sander. They made wooden furniture during the last Nizam’s rule. Now, they are carved from local softwood and painted with Duco paints.
The Jingars have discontinued making the fine Kishti (tray), Khanchibba Chowki (settee) or the Palang (cot) owing to the change in customs.
These articles were used as dowry gifts in marriages and were ordered mostly by the Muslim nobility during the time of the Nizam.
Ganjifa playing cards are also traditionally made in Nirmal, but as of February 2011, only one elderly artisan was still making them.
The artists shifted from natural dyes to duco paints. Due to use of the duco colours, the Nirmal paintings acquire a typical shine. The toys are also painted in enamel colours giving them the sheen they are known for.
The world famous Nirmal Toys are made in the historic town of Nirmal in the state of Telangana.
Nirmal toy derived its name from a 17th-century ruler, Nimma Naidu, who had great interest in art and toy-making. Back then, he collected about 80 artisans and started a toy-making industry that came to add cultural significance to the town.
The Nirmal toy cluster has 60 families registered with the state rural self-help group, who keep the craft alive, making toys that are sold through state emporia. The cluster earns revenues in the range of Rs 3- 4 lakh per month.
Considering that the cluster largely produces toys, which is a non-essential item, there is always the danger of artisans losing interest in this traditional craft and moving on to more lucrative occupations. However, the award of the Geographic Indication (GI) status to Nirmal toys in 2009 was a morale booster for them.
The GI status acts as a flagging device that helps producers differentiate the Nirmal toys from competing products in the market. It has brought recognition and fame to the town, spreading awareness about the uniqueness of its products.
At the same time, it offers protection from fake products. The goodwill around the GI products often translates into better pricing.
The town of Nirmal has been a prominent production centre for many such items, especially war cannons and toys from a very long time.
Toys are made for different uses like utility purpose, ornamental value etc., and some of the toys are made very artistically. One such glorious tradition is that of Nirmal toys.
Toys are those wonderful small things, which have been an integral part of our lives right from childhood, entertaining us and giving us our first set of learning in life.
A Glimpse of the Naqashi Art
Nirmal craft is known for its age-old origin, dating back to the Kakatiya era. The recorded history states that it is 400-year-old rich tradition encompassing soft wood toys and attractive paintings, and furniture, occupying the pride of place in the larger context of Indian handicrafts. These toys are made of finely carved wood.
According to local legend, the Naqash families of Rajasthan migrated to this region during 17th century and it is they who brought this art.
The Naqash artisans produced these toys from the local variety of softwood initially, called Poniki or white sander.
The usage of the duco colours, makes the Nirmal toys popular for its typical shine and these toys are also painted in enamel colours, which brings a unique look to them.
Nirmal toys are also painted with an herbal extract, which imparts a golden sheen. These are also coated with exclusive and rich oil colors.
The Mughal miniatures’ painting on the white wood Poniki is considered very attractive and owned more by art collectors.
The motifs which are used in Nirmal craft are derived from the floral designs and frescoes found in Ajanta and Ellora forms and the Mughal miniature art.
The foundries which have been established here supplied key ammunition to the Nizam army of erstwhile Hyderabad state while the Naqash craftsmen, have contributed their rich skill in the form of the exclusive wooden toys.
These are coated by duco paintings, which is a highlight of Nirmal Art. The dynastic legacy of Hyderabad Nizam’s is considered one among the many reasons why this art had flourished far and wide.
The strategic location of Nirmal town, connecting North and Central parts of India with South India has also contributed for the variety as well as popularity of this art from many centuries.
The cottage industry here comprises of Nirmal toys, Nirmal paintings etc., which is a main source of livelihood for the artisans involved in this trade. In fact, Nirmal toys are the pride of Telangana region and the town is considered synonymous with special toys, paintings and furniture.
The toys made in Nirmal constitute ideal gifts and souvenirs and hence they are widely popular. Nirmal toys are used for decorating living spaces, office spaces and art galleries.
The tradition of toy making is also a matter of academic interest for other craftsmen, who visit the town from other parts of world.