Handicrafts sector occupies an important place in the economy of West Bengal as it contributes significantly to employment generation and export earnings. The economic importance of the sector also lies in its high employment potential, low capital investment, high value addition and a constant, if not increasing, demand both in the domestic and overseas markets. The sector provides employment to more than 3 lakh craft persons mostly from rural areas.
There is one name – Clay Doll of Ghurni (PS Krishnanagar, District Nadia), which seems to play an important role in the export market of decorative products. This industry is spread all over the area, including Kalipur, Bhatjangla, Pal Para, Halder Para, Sandhya Para etc. There are many small units which are employing the similar process of manufacturing and producing similar products but facing similar opportunities and threats.
Making of the clay dolls of variable scale and size is the main art & Craft of Ghurni. It’s a traditional skill that has passed down through generations. Nowadays, based on such clay models bronze castings are also being made and have found pride of place all around the world.
We have clay dolls, toys and even clay sculptures in different parts of India. But there has been nothing to match the clay doll artisans of Krishnanagar in the Nadia district of West Bengal. 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 and umbrella makers – are yet other specialties of Krishnanagar dolls.
Exhibitions of Krishnanagar dolls have been held in London, Paris and Boston. Ghurni clay models have won medals and certificates at international exhibitions.