By Pranil Yodha:
The world of delicate and dainty dolls not only mesmerizes you to the extent that you bear the enthralling experience of a lifetime in your heart but also immensely dazzles you by the aesthetic art that it exhibits. The intricateness related to the structure and physical attributes of each doll tempts you to kiss the hands of the artists who put their heart-felt efforts in creating those masterpieces.
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum or just International Dolls Museum, which stands on Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, located in the Children’s Book Trust building, conspicuous amongst the offices of big media moguls and offices, should be a mandatory location on everybody’s travelogue.
The overall experience of the museum becomes scintillating and enthralling as one gradually goes through the ravishing costume dolls that give an insight into the culture of people of an array of nations, tribes, religions, races and regions. The ‘sneak-peek’ into different cultures of the world, not only does it makes us aware of the attributes, attire, accessories and jewellery exhibited in a particular fashion world over but even the dances, festivals and folklore incorporated in different traditions.
The museum, which was earlier called Nehru museum, is divided into two halves. The two sections have over one-sixty glass cases displaying sixty-five hundred exhibits, with one displaying exhibits from almost eighty-five countries, thus giving the museum an international character. The other section displays a representative collection from the over one-fifty kinds of authentic Indian costume dolls.
“Indian dolls made at the workshop adjoining the museum are exchanged for gifts received from abroad as well as sold to collectors and museums in India and abroad”, explained, Shanta Srinivasan, advisor, Dolls museum.
This paradise for children, which possesses an incredibly huge collection of costume dolls, was founded and created by the critically acclaimed political cartoonist of Hindustan Times, K.Shankar Pillai to convey his compassion and affection to children.
Costume dolls and puppets, from different countries viz. Australia, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Iraq, Hungary, Belgium, Poland, Slovak republic, Greece, Sweden, Italy, France, New Zealand, Cuba, Colombia, Ireland, UK, Argentina, Bolivia, Ghana, Tanzania, Vietnam, Russian Federation, Brazil, Greenland, Commonwealth of Independent States, Turkmenistan and the list goes on, are on display in the first section of the museum.
You would be amazed to know that some dolls can be considered as antiques as their origin can be traced back as early as to the eighteenth century! For instance, the exquisite dolls of Switzerland were created around 1781.Some dolls have been received as gifts from foreign dignitaries, such as the Mexican dolls were presented by First Lady of Mexico and Yugoslavian dolls were presented by Madame Tito, the First Lady of Yugoslavia, in 1966.
Another salient feature of the costume dolls is that they are shown in different postures, apparel and background to depict some special signature traditions of the people it represents. In the Thailand’s glass case, for example, boat markets are depicted and in that of Japan, Samurai warriors are displayed. The dolls that catch your attention are dolls of Flamenco dancers from Spain, Maypole dancers from Hungary, Boys and Girls festival dolls, replica dolls of Queen’s collection from UK and Kabuki dolls from Japan.
The festivals celebrated by different countries are also depicted like a scene of the celebration of the famous festival of Sri Lanka, Kandi Perahera, has also been exhibited. The climatic conditions and how people lead their day-to-day lives can also be known only by seeing the dolls. Many of us aspire to have a world tour but do not have enough money, but this museum takes you on a roller-coaster ride around the whole world in a fraction of minutes.
The second half comprises Indian dolls entailing a variety of dolls from all states of India. This very beautifully depicts and delves into the enriching culture of our country. The different attire, complexion, physical attributes, dances, festivals, ornaments and signature features of people of all states is shown. Like the dolls of Himachal Pradesh are shown very fair with deep red cheeks and lips. There is glass case displaying the couples of different states of India to give an insight of the dressing way of the people. You can easily distinguish the sarees worn by women of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi by just different ways of draping the same saree.
There is another glass case showing the ‘Brides’ of India i.e. how the brides of the different states differ in their intricately embroidered dresses and ornaments. The postures of all the classical and folk dances of India, namely Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Nongkram, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Bhangra, Dandiya ras and Matka have been very magnificently portrayed through the medium of dolls. What catches your attention is the ‘how to wear a saree’ demonstration given by a 36-24-36 sized pretty Indian doll.There is also a beautiful representation of various tribes of India such as Naga, Bondo, Muria, Bagai, Bhil and Santhal.
The ancient culture and history of India has also been depicted in the museum. The seven incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Raslila of Lord Krishna, Ram Darbar and a sculpture showing the scene for Holika Dehan from the Bhagvata Purana, a great Indian classic, are all examples of the same. The amazing portrayal of the mischief of young Lord Krishna steals your heart. Through the display of Dandi March, one gets a glimpse of the modern history of India.
“The dolls are made from either terracotta or papier ma^che’.You must be getting alarmed by seeing naked dolls, we have got accustomed to it”, guffawed Ms Srinivasan as she led me to the workshop to show how dolls were created. As we entered the workshop, we leapt into the magical and enchanting world of dainty dolls, where dolls were created and dressed to give pleasure to and soothe the eyes of the viewers. The workshop specializes in beautiful, authentic, handcrafted costume dolls depicting a cross section of people of India. The diversity of Indian culture comes alive through them, for each doll is made after a meticulous study and research into the habits, physical features and style of living of the people it represents.