Wooden Toys of West Bengal

Games, Toys, Dolls, Kites, Sports, Wood

Wooden Toys of West Bengal

About a century and a half ago, a group of wooden toy makers had settled down in Natungram. Natungram is a small village of Bardhaman district in West Bengal.  It is home to craftsperson who make ethnic character dolls. For centuries, they found markets to sell their craft essentially in only rural fairs. In the early days, small figures were made using this craft, of which the raja-rani (king and queen) and owl (associated with Goddess Lakshmi) with their bright, vibrant colours are the most well known. Male figures were made with their hands raised and the female figures with their hand by their side. One may also find figures of gods and goddesses carved in relief on rectangular or square wooden sections, apart from the toys. These are very popular in urban markets due to their contemporary appearance. Owl is considered auspicious for home as it is a vehicle/escort of Goddess Durga. 

Vibrant colour, intricate design and ethnic style are the characteristic features of the wooden dolls. The designs are based on culture and mythology. The dolls are carved from one piece of wood. Owl, Pashiputul (Radha-Krishna) on a single block of wood, Durga, Gour Nitai and raja-Rani dolls are traditionally made. the dolls are mainly made of Gamhar wood because of its strength and quality. Other than that Mango wood, Neem wood and Akashmoni is also used. Simple hand tools like saw machine, carving knife, chisels in different sizes Gouge and hammers are used. Sand paper is used for final polishing of the dolls. To make the toys, a length of wood with a square section is chiselled into the desired shape, and is painted with bold colours. Presently, the toys are produced using a similar technique however the forms differ. On white background of the doll is painted a design of black yellow and red.

There are around 51 families living in the area involved in doll making.  More than 100 craftsperson’s are involved in this work. Artisans work as a collective called Swami Janakidas Natungram Wood Carving Artisan Industrial Cooperative Society ltd.


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