Origin: Tribes have a long history of introducing the most beautiful crafts. Among the many things that have been presented by tribes, the art of dolls and toys craft remains the most loved. It is the most ancient non-ferrous metal casting method known to mankind. Initially, the name dolls-and-toys was employed to indicate a group of nomadic craftsmen.
Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh is home to one of the most backward tribal groups called the Bhil and Bhilala tribes. This region depicts its aesthetics with that of doll handicrafts. The dolls-and-toys artisans revolved around tribes crafting ceremonial and religious figures, ornaments and kitchenware. A symbolic illustration of the existence and ethos of Bhil and Bhilala tribe, this craft gives glimpses of the bygone era.
A significant medium of expression, this craft whispers the tales of artistic traditions, occupational legacies, religious practices and more. Sharp and enduring features, kohl painted eyes, bindis kissing forehead, heavy traditional wear hugging the body, bow & arrow clad, sickle and festive accessories adorn these dolls revealing the tribal way of life. That is on one hand they are colorfully decked up and on the other they carry their necessities such as bow and arrow.
Heavy silver jewelry and dressy bead work, which is a crucial feature of these dolls, finds its origin in the daily life of rural women. On the other hand, male toys are clad in Dhoti & Kurti carrying arrows taking a hint from the primitive occupations of this tribe – hunting.
Batto Bai dolls are named after their creator, a craftswoman from Gwalior. These charming dolls are crafted from rags and paper.
Present Day: Dolls and toys craft engulfs a large percentage of backward communities providing them employment opportunities. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission and other government schemes support artisans involved in this handicraft. Today, dolls and toys craft has become a unique selling point for this region.
Bathed in a spectrum of vibrant tints, these toys are available in copious shapes and sizes. Bejeweled in typical tribal wedding attires and silver ornaments, the dolls of Jhabua continue to be a symbol of their community and history.
These toys are available in varied forms ranging from stuffed to leather to metal and wooden. This is a typical art form depicting different figures like animals, birds or humans. One of the most common toys are horses in leather.
Procedure: Traditionally known as the ‘Adivasi Gudiya Hastashilp’, the art of doll making calls for immense love for craft. The raw materials used are bright fabrics, clay, plaster of paris, cotton, wires, beads, metal jewelry, silver paint, bamboo etc.
Brushes and thumb impressions are used to carve detailed facial expressions. These dolls are made out of small cloth pieces. Rags dolls continue to be made in a traditional way with painted fascial expressions. Their costumes are made of paper with boat shaped turbans and are draped in saris made out of paper with proper jewellery.
Leather toys are stuffed with different raw materials and then covered with leather to create a hard exterior. The leather used in these toys comes from Goat. The toys can be soft or hard depending upon the stuffing. These toys are very skillfully manufactured and appreciated for tiny details.
Dolls from Madhya Pradesh are usually sold in pairs. In Gwalior, Batubai Dolls are made of Bamboo, paper and rags. These dolls are usually four to five feet in height and have tribal motifs over them.
There is another range of dolls and toys which are made up of Metal. Dhokra metal toys are made up of molten metal poured in wax and clay mould. Brass metal is used for making these dolls. The local tribes use lost wax process to make these dolls.
These dolls are exported all across the world and are frequently exhibited in Japan, France, Australia, USA and other countries.
Bring Home Dolls: You can find these handicrafts from Bhopal at Mrignayani Emporium at Hamidia Road, Handicrafts Emporium, MP State Emporium and in Indore from Mrignayani at Krishnapur Bridge. You can also find these dolls at local markets of Gwalior and Jabua.