Dolls Museum Delhi

Dolls Museum Delhi

Few countries have as varied an assortment of dolls as India. Delhi is only one of many Indian centres for toy and doll making besides being a meeting place for dolls from all parts of India as well as the world.

The Delhi Dolls Museum-aptly named Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in memory of its inventive creator, K. Shankar Pillai (1902-1989)-boasts of one of the largest collections of costume dolls in the world. Founded in 1957, the museum started with just a thousand dolls. It added 5,000 more dolls to its collection between 1965 and 1987-most of them coming as gifts. Today the museum houses over 6,500 exhibits from over 85 countries. The museum is divided into two sections, one displaying dolls from Yugoslavia, Greece, Mexico, Thailand, Poland, South Korea, the United Kingdom, former USSR, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries. The other section is devoted to Asian countries, the Middle East, Africa, and different states of India. Particularly attractive are the costume dolls from Rajasthan, Kashmir and Kerala. There are also special displays on themes such as Man on the Moon, Gandhiji’s Dandi March, A Forest Scene, A Kathakali Stage, etc. Other interesting exhibits include a 250-year-old doll from Switzerland; Maypole dance (Hungary); Flamenco dancers from Spain; the Kabuki dancer of Japan; a scene from the Ramayana (Thailand); Bridal pairs (Indonesia); the Kandy Perahera Festival (Sri Lanka); Mexican aborigines; Australian Maoris, characters from a ballet (South Korea); dolls in picturesque folk costumes from Bulgaria and the dancing dolls of Tamil Nadu.

One of the most complicated details is getting the right jewellery for the dolls. Changes are made, larger items broken up and new composites formed, bits and pieces taken from here and there to make an authentic whole. Each doll is seemingly as sensitive as its human counterpart.

The museum becomes a hub of activity during summer (May to July) when legions of holidaying schoolchildren come here all the way from the south. A prime attraction of the museum is the Dolls Workshop, which has been engaged in preparing Indian dolls with authentic details since the late seventies. Each doll is fashioned with meticulous care after prolonged research into the physical features of the individual character, stance, dress and jewellery. The dolls are arranged in groups like Dances of India, Brides of India, Man and Woman, etc. They are given away in exchange for foreign dolls as well as sold to collectors and museums both in India and abroad.

The Dolls Museum at Delhi is a miniature world come alive with dolls representing the social life of many countries. Here, among the figures beautiful and more varied than the figures of Old China, the world’s children meet. So do the cultures to which they are the heirs. In the blissful beauty of the museum, they represent a world at peace, a world of visual harmony.