Wooden Doll: Carving legacy of Natungram

The state of West Bengal is endowed with multi-crafting abilities. At every entrance gate, carving can be found. A warrior and a high-status household need to have a wooden carving at the entrance of the gate or door. A stunning wooden carving may be found at the village’s main entrance. Human figures, animals such as elephants, Mithun heads, and hornbills are among the most well-known carvings. Each of these sculptures conveys a distinct message. Mithun’s carvings indicate prosperity, while animal motifs represent tough physical power. Human figures signify hunting success. The carving tools are handcrafted in the area. Chisel, axle, pair, and other tools are frequently employed. Nagas are also music aficionados, and they carve their instruments out of wood. The instruments are xylophones, drums, and bamboo flutes, which demonstrate exceptional music and carving skills. The brilliant color, exquisite design, and ethnic style of Wooden Doll are well-known. The Natungram Owl is a symbol of Bengali craftsmanship.

Wood Carving
Women painting dolls

This art is practiced in every home throughout the village. Women do the majority of the work in painting the dolls, as well as the majority of the effort in selling them. Tourists continue to flock to the town. Women perform all of the jobs of serving the idol, dealing with customers, and keeping accounts in front of them. The villagers shape and create the blocks by cutting wood from various plants such as mango and jackfruit. Women do the majority of the painting, arranging, and selling. They make kings and queens’ idols and dolls. The most famous of their creations are wooden carvings of various gods. The people of Natungram have been known as Sutradhars, or storytellers or narrators, or thread-bearers, for generations. This folk art began with stone rather than text, wood, or paper. Their forebears, they claim, used to build stone idols and went by the name Bhaskar, which means “one who works metal or stone.” Their woodwork is claimed to have begun at the request of the local ruler. Sutradhar became popular among musicians, though Bhaskar is still used by a handful.

Colour Mask Wooden Doll
Making of Doll

Process of Making:

The body is first carved out of wood, and then each limb is individually sculpted and connected to the body with a tamarind seed adhesive paste. After that, the doll is painted using a goat hairbrush. Artists used to utilize natural colors created from vegetables, fruits, flowers, and leaves, but now they use market paints. For ages, oil paints in bright colors like red, yellow, orange, green, and blue have been employed. Borders are made with white and black hues. After the wood has been seasoned, the complete process takes no more than a day. “In less than twenty-four hours, expert hands can sculpt or paint around two hundred dolls.”

Covid Effects:

The majority of doll makers are from scheduled castes and tribes and live in poverty (BPL). The coronavirus, like other types of art, has put these artists’ lives in jeopardy. Their business options have already been taken away by the pandemic. For a long time, all fairs have been closed. Due to the lockout, tourists have been unable to visit. As a result, they are having difficulties. There are a lot of spare dolls in their homes that haven’t been sold yet. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when cultural and cottage industry fairs had to be canceled and tourists experienced a setback, the main worry was their survival. The Durga Puja celebration, which takes place in October, is also a significant bazaar. This year, though, there have been fewer orders. The government’s aid packages, including free rations, have helped, but Natungram’s craftsmen want to get back to work.

Ridhi Modi
Ridhi Modi

3rd year undergraduate student at the Jindal School of Art and Architecture, majoring in BA Built Environment Studies (Hons) with Interior Design as minors. Intern at Shop Chaupal- to learn about India’s Art and Culture.

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