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Krishnanagar Nadia Ghurni Patul Potti

Krishnanagar clay dolls are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish

Krishnanagar Nadia Ghurni Patul Potti

Krishnanagar clay dolls are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish

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Ghurni is a neighbourhood of Krishnanagar in Nadia district in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the centre for the production of clay dolls, often referred to as Krishnanagar clay dolls

The creations of these artists are displayed in most of the handicraft museums of the world. In India, we have a large display of these dolls in the Shankar’s Doll Museum in New Delhi. One look at the clay dolls and we are amazed at the reality with which the artist has displayed the character of the model. A horse rearing to gallop to a placid dog licking its lips after a hearty feed.

 

Krishnanagar clay dolls are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish, ‘…they truly represent a breakaway from the traditional form. Fruits, fish, insects, animals, 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 minutest detail. Realistic recreations of everyday life, work, mood and character- farmers, weavers, rag pickers, basket makers, umbrella makers – are yet other specialties of Krishnanagar dolls.’

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Krishnagar | Nipobithi Bar Cum Resort

 

Exhibitions of Krishnagar dolls have been held in London, Paris and Boston.Ghurni clay models have won medals and certificates at international exhibitions.

The clay modellers of Ghurni have fallen on bad days. The decline of feudal zemindari culture and loss of their patronage have adversely affected them. They are finding new patrons amongst NRIs, many of whom are acquiring clay models in large numbers.

History Of Clay Dolls

 

Ghurni in Nadia district has always served as a pillar to the art and cultural firmament of West Bengal.The clay dolls of Krishnanagar have a glorious past, dating back to the reign of Maharaja Krishnachandra (1710-1783), who helped the British East India Company against Siraj ud-Daulah in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Maharaja Krishnachandra was a patron of the arts, including literature and music, and supported the production of clay dolls. In 1728, he brought families of potters from Dhaka and Natore in present-day Bangladesh, and settled them in Ghurni, then a village. Since then, the artisans have been living here and making clay dolls, toys and even sculptures.

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Ghurni clay dolls are strikingly real and boast a fine finish. They represent a remarkable breakaway from traditional clay work. Yet, some aspects are rooted in age-old techniques. Like with traditional work, the doll makers use tiny iron rods to provide the skeletal structure, and then work with delicate tools to craft the clay. The dolls are then baked in a kiln, given a final coat of varnish, painted, and then dressed up in fine garmentsEarlier, the dolls were made from clay sourced from the banks of the river Jalangi. Now, the artisans use soil from agricultural fields, because of restrictions on lifting soil from river banks.

They claim the future doesn’t hold much promise, as the demand for Ghurni dolls has been decreasing every passing day. “We do not get many orders from wholesalers, and even the retail market is not very encouraging,” said 51-year-old Mantu Pal, an artisan. 

“The prices of raw material have gone up but the dolls are still being sold at the old price, because people don’t want to pay the right price. The pandemic-induced lockdown has made the situation worse. We might all fade away into oblivion,” Mantu told Gaon Connection.