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October 28, 2015

Biswa Bangla stalls to showcase lost and forgotten art of Bengal dollmaking

Biswa Bangla stalls to showcase lost and forgotten art of Bengal dollmaking

Biswa Bangla stalls will now showcase lost and forgotten art of dollmaking in the State.

A total of 27 genres of Bangla dolls, including rare ones, such as Bonga elephants of Sandra (Bankura), animal dolls from Belia (West Midnapore) and Shiva head of Nabadwip (Nadia), have been brought together at the state-run handicraft retail chain.

Some of the dolls are so rare that only one or two families in the entire state make them now. With the market for these dolls going down, most artisan families have stopped making dolls.

The Shiva Head of Nabadwip is now made only at the time of Basanti Puja, to mark the mythological wedding of Shiva and Parvati. The local artists create colourful masks of Shiva. Unlike terracotta figures, which are baked in ovens, these dolls are dried in the sun. The masks, once painted, are then taken door to door to collect money for the ritual. These artisans make dolls only during Chaitra.

The Biswa Bangla authorities are trying to present the different dolls to the connoisseurs in India and abroad. We have already seen a good demand at our London store. We are also coming up with miniature dolls, along with a short history for them. This makes for an excellent collectors’ item.

It took six months to find some of the rare dolls. The Bonga elephants are not made anymore. They were made by tribals in Bankura, and were dedicated to the Santhali deity, Singh Bonga, at a place called Zaher. In some cases, artistes were convinced to revive their art. The figurines need to have utility too. We assured them a good price and a market too. The unique feature of the elephant is its round shape, nowhere found in other dolls. Animal dolls of Belia have unique features and incorporate semi-circular shapes of the ears. The elephants of Belia are different from other genres with their long round trunks and large ears.