28 Nov 2022  |   06:05am IST

The magic hands of Chitaris from Demani give life to dead wood

But this local toy industry, tracing its vintage to the Portuguese times, is on the verge of vanishing
The magic hands of Chitaris from Demani give life to dead wood

 Vijayakumar Dessai 


CUNCOLIM: Chitaris and Charis of Demani in Cuncolim are known for their artistry. And their ‘child’s play’. Giving life to wood, the talented artisans make toys and other gifts that have brought delight to generations of Cuncolkars and many others from neighbouring and faraway villages, with their art of carving and painting.

Demani is also known as an artisan’s ward. Approximately 80 Chitari and Chari families have preserved their talent which they inherited from their ancestors. This ward in Cuncolim is a unique example of Mahatma Gandhi's Gramudyog or village industry. Every house has either an artisan living or has a small workshop were artistic craft persons give life to wood and produce excellent and beautiful wooden articles.

Two communities of artisans -Chitari and Charis- are known for making wooden children’s toys, baby cradles, wooden matoli for Ganesh Chaturthi, pat which the Hindus use to sit on the ground, devare to keep idols and also modern gifts and other useful articles. Both Charis and Chataris have maintained and preserved the old-age traditions of repairing and painting temple rathas (chariots) and also painting the toranga. Both Chitaris and Charis have a special place in the temple.

In fact, the concept of vocal-for-locals was initiated in Cuncolim long back. Once upon a time, Demani was known for wooden toys and there was a huge demand for them and other carved wooden articles

 In the Chitari’s Chitrashala (workshop) they give shape to various types of toys.

Toys for newborn babies, toys for infants, etc. From a cradle for a  baby, teether for newborns, wooden special walkers for growing babies as they take their first steps, desi rattles, drums, dumble rings, accessories, and sets of wooden kitchen utensils, are all made at the Chitrashala.

 Extinction stares at Cuncolim’s toy artisans

Years ago, business was good for them but now these wooden children’s toys are becoming extinct.

With new-age kids (as well as their parents) preferring modern and even electronic or digital toys, the Chitaris have no option but to downscale and even think of closing down their industry. Even other carved wooden articles like path, Matoli, wooden fruits, and dewaras are not much in demand, though some still buy baby walkers and kitchen articles.

Secondly, it’s difficult to get wood. Chitaris say the government must provide them with wood at subsidised rates. They also want the government to allow local artisans to showcase their talent at various tourist hotpots in Goa and other parts of the country as well as showcase their art internationally.

 The toy artisans of Cuncolim are also ambassadors of our 

cultural heritage

The Portuguese loved these toys and many wooden articles have been exported to Portugal during the Portuguese regime. Some of the Chitaris have even been awarded for their work at the state and national levels. Their claim is not for subsidies from the government but just a little recognition and support for their work.

Hindu families in Goa have a tradition to give ‘Vazem’ to newly married couples from the mother’s home. For this, they give some wooden articles, prepared by the Chitaris.

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival sees these artists busy carving wooden fruits and other items used for the matoli.

The Charis do not have any formal training. Children nurture this family talent as they grow up and continue with it throughout their life.

Everyone here has the potential to be self-sufficient. And governments and people’s representatives must understand this.