Lac Terracotta Dolls of West Bengal

Lac Terracotta Dolls of West Bengal

The craft of making lac coated terracotta toys and votive figurines, is practiced in several districts of West Bengal, by sankhakars, conch shell craftspersons. Due to the decline in their natural craft of making conch shell bangles, sankhakars had to find new trade to earn a livelihood. This shift was majorly adopted by the women of the families. Besides toys, lac bangles are made in Surul in Birbhum district and Balarampur in Purulia district. The height of these lac dolls varies from about two to six inches. The craftsperson gives form to a lump of clay with the use of fingers, deftly shaping it into figures of gods and goddess, of animals and people. The figurines are dried in shade for a day and then sundried. Then these are baked in a small domestic oven and coloured with sticks of painted lac. These long sticks of painted lac are produced by heating lac with paint powder. While applying paint the dolls are heated and as the paint sticks touch them the paint coats them. The front is brightly coloured, while the reverse is painted black. The terracotta figures of Shashti putul, goddess of fertility, and mother and child figurines have pointed faces that are made by pinching and pressing clay in a distinctive way.

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