Geography of Ghurni
Ghurni is situated at 23.25degreeN 88.34degreeE on the banks of the Jalangi River. The place can be reached by train or bus from Kolkata. Krishnanagar City is part of Kolkata Suburban Railway on the Sealdah - Naihati - Ranaghat - Krishnanagar line. The train journey takes two and half hours and one can get back home the same day itself. Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available for travel within the city.
History of Ghurni
Former name of Krishnanagar was Rewe. It was founded by Bhabananda Majumdar in the 17th century. Later, Maharaja Rudra renamed the place as Krishnagar. Maharaja Krishnachandra, in 1757, in the Battle of Plassey, helped the British East India Company against Siraj ud-Daulah. He was a benefactor of the arts, including music and literature, and fully supported the production of clay dolls. In 1728 he brought families of potters from Natore and Dhaka and settled them in Ghurni, then a village.
Clay Dolls of Ghurni
There has been nothing in the entire India to match the clay doll artisans of Krishnanagar in the Nadia district of West Bengal. The creations of these artists are displayed in most of the handicraft museums of the world.
Krishnanagar clay dolls are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish. They truly represent a breakaway from the traditional form. Insects, animals, Fruits, fish, birds, and of course the entire pantheon of gods and goddesses, and even the ubiquitous Donald Duck and other popular comic strip characters, faithful copies of real-life, down to the minute detail. Realistic recreations of everyday life, work, mood and character- farmers, weavers, umbrella makers rag pickers and basket makers - are yet other specialties of Krishnanagar dolls.
Exhibitions of Krishnanagar dolls have been held in London, Paris and Boston. Ghurni clay models have won medals and certificates at international exhibitions.
Bronze Casts of Ghurni
Some of the artists in Ghurni have studied art in Italy and France. The talent and skills have passed down through generations. Kartik Chandra Pal, a popular name in Ghurni, prepared clay models of statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
Changing times in Ghurni
Clay modellers of Ghurni have fallen prey to bad times. The fall of feudal zamindari culture and also loss of support from royal families have affected them adversely as well. They are, however, finding new patrons amongst NRIs. The tastes of present generation are however changing. A decade ago there were demand for great poets and traditional icons such as Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Now the focus mainly remains on cricketers like Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Even saints and religious leaders like Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Baba Loknath, and Sai Babas, have lost out in popularity to these cricketers.