(Last Updated on : 30/03/2019)
The potter community of West Bengal
produces the earthen dolls or clay dolls, most of which are shaped in female figures and they resemble the terracotta
dolls and earthen tablets of ancient age. Primarily, the potter community makes various kinds of earthen vessels but they also produce earthen dolls. Earthen dolls are made by pressing soft clay or pouring it in a mould to give it the desired figure. After giving the proper shape, they are always burnt in fire. Generally, the dolls are left without any colour, but sometimes a juice of tamarind
seeds with grounded mica is painted on the dolls to give them a reddish hue. But the potters of modern days are often seen decorating the dolls with various designs in green, blue and red colours after applying a coat of white paint.
Types of Earthen Dolls
There are several types of earthen dolls, some of them are the most prominent and popular ones. The famous earthen dolls are:
Small Earthen Dolls:
One of the most popular earthen dolls is small doll which is provided hand-pressed eyes and nose by the potters whereas folds of cloths and creases of neck are shown by drawing lines. These dolls are generally of 6 or 7 cm. The potters of Patihal, Nij Balia, Sarhiala-Balipota, Bantul and Kalikapur of Howrah District
, Tantiberhe, Mirzapur of Medinipur District
, Berhachampa-Debalay of North 24 Parganas District
, Raiganj of North Dinajpur District
, Baidyabati of Hoogly District
and Metyala of Bankura District
are occupied in producing the earthen dolls.
Earthen Dolls of Patihal:
Dolls of Patihal generally are of larger sizes; they vary from 12 to 16 cm. These dolls are made without legs; so the lower portions of them are covered by skirts. Hands are barely shown and eyes are made by lumps of clay. Strings of clay serve the purpose of necklace and scratches are drawn to provide decorative clothing and hairlines.
Mother Earthen Dolls:
Another type of earthen doll is mother doll, which symbolizes the goddess
Shasthi. These dolls most of the time, are made by pressing soft clay, but sometimes moulds are also used to form them. They are the prime clay dolls of Panchmurho village
of Bankura District. These dolls are seen in black colour keeping two, four or several children on their laps. A semicircular shield is held above their heads; hands and feet are made by the lumps or strings of clay. These mother or Shasthi dolls are also produced at Sonamukhi and Rajgram of Bankura District and Arambagh of Hoogly District. Dolls of Bankura district
are painted in red colour.
Among all the earthen dolls, 'rail doll is one of the most prominent types which is made by placing three or four hand-pressed clay dolls on a flat board, one behind the other with their hands resting on each other's shoulders. The theme of this doll bears a strong influence of folk art. A special feature of these dolls was that their faces were made to look like different animals; sometimes the doll carried a baby in her arms, sometimes she bore a pitcher on her waist and sometime she was shown sitting down with a child lying on her stretched legs. The braids and dresses of the dolls were made by the strokes of the artist's brush; her ornaments were made out of clay strings and her eyes were formed by fixing small dots of clay.
Themes of Earthen Dolls
The themes of earthen dolls are different depending upon their regions from where they are getting formed. Like, the artisans of Raiganj produce the dolls with a basket on her head or a woman standing with one hand on her head and the other resting on her waist. Potters community of Murshidabad district
show a woman tying up her companion's hair or picking up lice from her companion's hair or two women engaged in pounding pulse grains in a grind stone.