ॐ श्री गणाधिपतये नमः
Ghurni is a humble neighbourhood of Krishnanagar in West Bengal’s Nadia district. What makes it remarkable is that it is a centre of production for stunningly beautiful and lifelike clay dolls.
While clay artefacts are created in many parts of India, few can compare with the intricate detailing and finesse that define the clay dolls of Krishnanagar. The marvellous creations of these artisans are displayed in handicraft museums and art galleries around the globe.
Every doll just two or three inches in height tells a story, or depicts a vignette of rural life.
A horse rearing to gallop to a quietly relaxing dog, a village housewife chopping vegetables on the floor, a fisherman selling fish from a huge bamboo basket, basket weavers working with bamboo bark, a priest doing puja in front of a shivling, umbrella repairmen fixing broken handles, Santhal Adivasis dancing with Dhols, villagers carrying home firewood, an iron welder at his craft, a rope-maker working with jute and cotton – the list is simply endless.
Krishnanagar clay dolls are truly unique in their realism and the supreme quality of their finish.
Exhibitions of Krishnanagar dolls have been held in many parts of the globe including London, Paris and Boston. Ghurni clay models have won several prestigious medals and certificates at international exhibitions.
Unfortunately, despite the occasional accolades, doll making is a dying art form though it has been a part of the legacy of the local potters for over five generations.
The art received international recognition and saw its golden days during the reign of Raja Krishna Chandra Ray, when the clay artefacts were exported and the artisans were even sent abroad to promote and teach the art-form. But after his death, royal patronage came to a standstill.
It is time we step in where Raja Krishna Chandra Ray left off to preserve this grand artistic treasure. If we can generate public awareness through national and international exhibitions, aggressive social media initiatives, dedicated and relentless blogging etc, it might inspire the Krishnanagar clay doll makers to infuse new life into their beautiful heritage.
Krishnanagar Clay Dolls in Shankar Doll Museum in Delhi :
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in New Delhi has a collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls. The museum was established in 1965 by K. Shankar Pillai, a famous political cartoonist, and has since become one of the most popular museums in Delhi.
The museum has a collection of over 6,500 dolls from around the world, including a significant number of dolls from India. The Krishnanagar clay dolls in the museum’s collection are known for their intricate designs and vibrant colors, and they showcase the unique artistic traditions of the region.
Visitors to the museum can see a wide variety of Krishnanagar clay dolls, including dolls depicting gods and goddesses, animals, and characters from mythology and folklore. The dolls are displayed in glass cases and are accompanied by information about the artisans who made them and the cultural significance of the dolls.
The Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, and it provides a unique opportunity to learn about the traditional art and culture of India through the medium of dolls.
Some of the master craftsmen who are national award winners :
There have been many skilled craftsmen from Krishnanagar who have won national awards for their work in making clay dolls. Here are the names of a few of them:
- Late Bhabatosh Sutar – He was a renowned clay doll artist who won the National Award in 1984. He was known for his intricate designs and attention to detail.
- Pradip Rudra Pal – He is a skilled clay doll artist who won the National Award in 2010. His work is known for its unique designs and vibrant colors.
- Purnendu Sekhar Das – He is another talented clay doll artist who won the National Award in 2017. His work is known for its intricate designs and fine detailing.
- Sujit Das – He is a well-known clay doll artist who won the National Award in 2018. He is known for his creative designs and use of vibrant colors.
These are just a few examples of the many skilled craftsmen from Krishnanagar who have won national awards for their work in making clay dolls. There are many other talented artists and craftsmen from the region who continue to make these beautiful and unique dolls, keeping the tradition alive.
Some of the museums and art galleries around the globe where one can see Krishnanagar clay dolls on display :
Krishnanagar clay dolls have been displayed in various museums and art galleries around the globe. Here are some examples:
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London – This museum has a collection of over 200 Krishnanagar clay dolls dating back to the 19th century.
- Indian Museum, Kolkata – The Indian Museum in Kolkata has a large collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls and other traditional Indian handicrafts.
- National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, New Delhi – This museum has a collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls along with other handicrafts from different regions of India.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls that were donated by the American collector, Stella Kramrisch.
- Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio – The Cleveland Museum of Art has a collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls that were acquired in the early 20th century.
- Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts – The Peabody Essex Museum has a collection of Krishnanagar clay dolls that were acquired in the 19th and 20th centuries.
These are just a few examples of museums and art galleries that have displayed Krishnanagar clay dolls. There may be other institutions around the world that have collections of these dolls as well.