The lesser-known backwater of Dindi is a perfect riverside destination. If peace and quiet are what you are looking for, then Dindi is definitely the place for you. Lush green coconut lagoons, mouthwatering Andhra delicacies and pollution free clean air might be what attracts you to this quaint village. Take it a notch further and explore the exquisite Kondapalli dolls. Unique to this region, this wooden handicraft is worth travelling south for.

Kondapalli Dolls

Kondapalli dolls if you have never heard of them are handcrafted toys made of a special softwood called Tella Poniki. These figurines usually portray scenes and characters from epic stories, deities, rural life, bullock carts and animals. This art goes back 400 years back. The artisans who produce these are called Aryakhastriyas and are even mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana. Legend says that these artisans migrated to Kondapalli in the 16th century from Rajasthan bringing their art with them. Stories proclaim that this art was passed down by the sage Maharishi who worshipped Lord Shiva. The present-day Kondapalli lies in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh at 23 km from Vijayawada.

How these dolls are made

The process of making a Kondapalli doll involves carving out the figurine in paper and wood mesh and smooth finishing the edges. Different pieces are carved separately and then joined together an adhesive made of crushed tamarind seeds. They are heated to remove any moisture from the material. The next step is to paint them using either watercolour or oil or enamel paints. Some also use organic vegetable dyes.

The dancing Kondapalli Doll

The most notable of the Kondapalli toys is the dancing doll. Since they are handcrafted, each piece is unique and every artisan makes his work his own. Each doll is made in four parts – head, body, hands and legs. The artisan fixes an iron ring so that the doll can swing the right amount. The Kondapalli dolls are made in different styles; dancers in Bharatnatyam, Manipuri and Kathakali style and some of them as Hindu goddesses. The colourful toys had patronage from eminent rulers in ancient times and were in great demand. As industrialisation set in, demand for these toys significantly reduced. Because of this, lesser and lesser artisans trained in this lost art. Lepakshi and Lanco Institute of General Humanitarian Trust in the present day still trains people to keep the art alive. Recently there has been some resurgence of demand for these dolls across Andhra Pradesh. Workers have been struggling to meet the demand since there are so few people trained in the art. Bommala Colony in Kondapalli is the where the artist colony thrives.

While South India has many hidden gems and talent, these heritage dolls will grace your living room and delight the onlooker. Planning a trip to Kondapalli? Stay at the tranquil Sterling resort in Dindi. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and get closer to nature. A fair warning though, once you step into this mystic riverside oasis, you might not want to leave. The calm lakes, canals and backwaters are fascinating to explore. Cycle your way through the village and you will meet the nicest people. The food is super delicious but a bit on the spicier side. You cannot leave this warm village without tasting Pootharekulu, the paper sweet which is available in three varieties. A houseboat cruise without the crowds of mainstream Kerala will make your trip memorable. While Dindi is a fabulous winter destination, it truly comes alive in the monsoon. The palm and casuarina trees and green fields around become even more beautiful in the rain.

Had you ever heard of the Kondapalli dolls? Do you or someone you know own them? (Brownie points to you if you do) Be a responsible traveller and support local handicrafts when you travel. Why buy cheap Chinese mass produced toys when we can invest in long-lasting handcrafted arts? Preserve our cultural heritage for the future generations. Head out to Sterling for the best holiday packages to discover more of India’s hidden secrets!