These are wooden, lacquered toys made by artisans of Ambasamudram since the 18th Century. Locally called Ambasamudram kadasal choppu, these wooden toys are famous for their quality, variety and colours. Now, an application seeking the GI tag for ‘Ambasamudram Choppu Saman’ has been filed, P Sanjay Gandhi, IP attorney and Nodal Officer, Geographical Indication Registration of Products, Tamil Nadu, told DT Next on Saturday. The application was facilitated by P Sivakumar, chief executive officer, Madurai Agribusiness Incubation Forum. Getting the prestigious GI tag for would make it known to a wider audience and thus uplift the craftsmen who make these toys, Gandhi said. The artisans in the region, who make a range of unique, handcrafted and nontoxic products ranging from toys and decor items to other handloom crafts, are keen to expand their footprint across the country and outside, he added.
Pilgrimage sites key markets for Ambai wooden toymakers
The most famous product made by the toy-making units, locally called “kadasal work” in Ambasamudram, are the small wooden kitchen utensils (Choppu Saman) and spinning top (pambaram).
Though they are sold all through the year, the sale peaks in September and October, during the time of Navarathri Golu, the festival of toys and dolls. Pilgrimage sites are among the most important markets for these toys, said Sanjai Gandhi.
Experts say the history of Ambasamudram toys can be traced back to at least 300 years. It finds mention in the book, Cottage Industries of India (1946), District Census Handbook, Village and Town Directory, Tirunelveli - Census of India 1971, Series – 19, Tamil Nadu, published by Director of Census Operations, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. “It states that the most important commodities exported from Ambasamudram are paddy, textiles and wooden toys,” Gandhi added.
The wooden toys market has been undergoing rapid changes and has been witnessing consistent innovations. But the artisans here stick to the traditional method and continue to use seasoned wood logs, natural colours, Lac resin (Kusmi) and screwpine leaves (Thalampoo) to make these toys. Being made from natural resources that are mostly non-toxic and are often recycled makes them eco-friendly, he said.