Antique Hand Carved Two-Headed Wooden Toy Horse, Circa 1920
Double the Fun: Antique Two-Headed Wooden Toy Horse (1920s).


Price On Request


Teak Wood


Circa 1920

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Width: 78cmHeight: 63cmDepth: 22cmWeight: 30kg

About the product

Antique, Hand Carved, Two-Headed Wooden Toy Horse, Circa 1920

This two-headed toy horse, circa 1920, is a delightful creation. Expertly crafted from wood, its delicate colours provide a glimpse into the vibrancy of what it would have been in all its glory, while its unique feature of two exquisitely carved heads facing in opposite directions, sparks a child's curiosity and enhances its appeal.

Intricately sculpted, with detailed features such as the mane and saddle, the horse's body is made of smooth, polished wood, giving it a lifelike appearance, and showcasing the skilled craftsmanship that went into its creation.  Its powerful stance exudes confidence while its flowing mane suggests, movement and fluidity. This combination creates a graceful quality to the design.

The history of toy making in India dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, when terracotta figurines were made for the leisure of children. Wood being a more perishable commodity, carpentry became a thriving profession requiring constant repair, maintenance, and replacement. A person who crafts wood is called a sutradhara (one who holds the strings), and they find mention in the Hindu texts, Rig Veda, and Jataka literature of the Buddhist faith.

The wooden toy industry in Rajasthan is more than 400 years old. The western state of India, famous for its palace architecture, forts, and block printing technique, has a thriving toy industry that has been carried on by the Kumhawat and Suthar communities in Udaipur, Partapgarh, and Bassi regions in Chittorgarh district for generations and although the origins and age of the craft of making wooden toys in Rajasthan lie in obscurity, according to local tradition, the Kumhawat community of Rajasthan is said to be the successor of Kumbhaji, who was a potter by caste. They learned the craft of woodworking from the nomadic Muslim families of the northern state of  Punjab when they made a halt at the city of Udaipur. These nomadic Muslim craftsmen, while returning to their homeland, taught their craft to the artisans of  Bassi and Partapgarh, whose descendants are still carrying out this craft. Unlike other artistic industries, the wooden craft of Udaipur never received any royal or aristocratic patronage.

The primary and most important raw material for the preparation of toys is wood.  The Kumhawats believe that woodcut during the period of Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) is liable to be infected with worms. Hence, wood is cut during the Krishna  Paksha (waning moon) period. The wood used for crafting is soft, straight, long,  and devoid of knots, which makes it suitable for fine work requiring little labour to achieve the desired shape. Wood from Khirni tree (obtuse-leaved mimusops),  Chandan tree (sandalwood), Saugun tree (teak), Adusa tree (Malabar nut), or Meetha neem (curry leaf tree) is used for crafting. 

· Khirni wood provides a natural yellow colour, and its elasticity helps toys withstand a fall. 

· Chandan wood is expansive and considered to be auspicious. It is mostly used to create images of gods or deities. 

· Saugun wood is considered the most durable, and its oil contains preservative properties. The wood turns almost black from a golden yellow. 

· The artisans at Bassi earlier used adusa wood for their craft, which is known as  Bassi kashta kala (Bassi woodcraft). But now, due to its fragmented presence in a  few pockets of the Aravalli Hills, they have started using wood from meetha neem,  which is soft with a low density. 

Kharad (Sanghedo) is a hand-operated form of a lathe used for revolving the object. The craftsman rotates the article on its axis with a bowstring, and different tools are used to carry out various processes of sharpening, shaping, lacquering, polishing, etc. 

Thikru is a polishing stick prepared by the craftsmen themselves, which works like sandpaper. Pieces of broken glass are collected and, with the help of a mortar and pestle, pounded into powder. Mixed and boiled with waste lac until homogeneity is achieved. The mixture is hammered to prepare rectangular sticks to polish the rough surface.

Orpiment, Sulfur, White Lead, Red Mercury, Prussian Blue, Lamp Black, and Indigo are all colours that can be seen here. Hand-prepared to obtain the desired shade and shine, this process is more laborious but would result in a smooth finish and a better shade effect. However, the contrast between these delicate and now faded, colours adds depth and draws attention to the different features of the horse. The absence of zinc powder helps the craftsmen acquire translucent effects. It is employed for polishing the surface of the artefact to various designs,  scenic forms, and any silver work. 

Lac is a resin secreted by lac insects (Laccifer lacca). The name lac is derived from the Hindi word lakh, which itself is derived from Sanskrit word laksha (100,000), as the insects are tiny and it requires almost 100,000 insects to produce a sufficient amount of shellac that can be used for production. Lac is used on the wooden product to give it an attractive finish. It dries up quickly and provides a waterproof coating for a considerable amount of time. 

Kewara (screw pine) is a flowering plant with a strong and sweet smell. The leaves are soaked overnight in water and then made into a pad and evened by the craftsman by sitting over it. After the artefact is coated in lac, kewara leaves dipped in groundnut oil are used to polish the lac for a permanent shine. They provide a final finish to the coloured artefact. 

The art in India has developed from various Hindu scriptures or has its inspiration in local legends. Various literary works of numerous generations developed ideas regarding different aspects of an art form. For instance, Brihat Samhita of  Varahmihira mentions various kinds of wood that can be used for household products; craftsmen enjoy higher social status than ordinary individuals, as according to Manusamriti, the hand of a craftsman is always ceremoniously pure. 

 The horse in Hinduism symbolizes power, energy, growth, freedom, determination,  loyalty, and wisdom.  For example in Hindu tradition, Hayagriva is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who has the neck of a horse and the body of a human. He slew the demons Madhu and Kaitabha,  who had stolen the Vedas, and returned them to Lord Brahma. Hayagriva is a  symbol of pure knowledge and wisdom guided by divinity and used to exorcise evil spirits. 

In the Rig Veda, seven horses draw the chariot of Surya (the sun god),  manifesting the light through the seven colours of the prism throughout the seven  days of the week. Horses symbolize energy, and the freedom of mind, which wanders on its own. Without the guidance of a skilled charioteer (atman), he moves randomly, creating chaos. 

In Rajasthani folklore, the horse is a symbol of Baba Ramdeoji, a folk deity who is said to have appeared in the 17th century. He rode a wooden toy horse in his childhood, which he infused with life. In honour of Baba Ramdeoji, a handmade horse made of wood and cloth is offered as a sacrifice by devotees at the 8-day  annual fair during the month of Bhadon (August–September) at Ramdeora in  Jaisalmer district. 

In Rajasthani tradition, the horse is a symbol of loyalty, valour, and determination, drawing inspiration from Chetak, the legendary horse of  Maharana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar. Despite being mortally wounded, he carried Maharana to safety from the battleground of Haldighati before breathing his last. Chetak was immortalized in the 18th-century Rajasthani ballad  Khummana-Raso. 

In the ancient Indian ritual of Ashvamedha Yajna, the horse symbolized the power of the king organizing the ceremony. All of the land on which the horse wandered unrestricted came under his reign. If any ruler, prince, or individual captured the scared horse, it signified a challenge to the power of the king and the king assumed the title of chakravartin (universal monarch).