Dolls are not just toys; they are expressions of what the child thinks and feel. India is known for its rich handicraft industry. The tradition of crafting toys and dolls for children dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. These pre- historic toys included handmade toy carts, figures of humans, animals, birds and even religious figurines. Most of these toys and dolls are crafted from natural materials, which are easily available. These materials include wood, clay, stones, cloth, leather and terracotta.
The variety of toys and dolls in India is extensive. Each region in India has its own tradition of making toys and dolls. The wooden toys of Banaras, the clay toys of Kondapalli, the cloth dolls of Pune and Bihar, the stuffed animal toys of Madhya Pradesh, the terra-cotta horse figures of West Bengal, the clay and pith dolls of Krishna Nagar, and the lacquered toys of Chennapatna in Karnataka are a few among the wide range of wooden articles handcrafted in India.
Although clay toys are fragile, they are extremely beautiful. Clay toys are either made of terracotta- these are hard and have a reddish color; or they are made o unbaked clay. Unbaked clay toys are found mainly in Kumartulli and Krishnanagar in West Bengal. Rajasthan is also known for the toys of unbaked clay. Kondapalli in Andhra Pradesh makes some of the traditional Dolls and toys out of a mixture of cow dung, sawdust and clay and covers them with lustrous pigments. The terracotta toys of the eastern and southern belt of India are very finely crafted with all major details.
The dolls made in India, either symbolize the people of that region, the dance and music forms of that region or certain professions which are practiced there. Each region hones its own art and craft to create dolls which are not only exquisite but also area specific. For instance, the skills of weaving and embroidery have reached new heights in Himachal Pradesh. They have been combined to create traditional outfits for well-crafted dolls known as Himachali dolls. The dolls dressed in Himachal style, complete with headscarves and adorned with traditional jewelry of the State, are replicas of the women here.
Punjab is known for its bridal dolls or "gudiyas" and the Bhangra dolls (a lively folk dance). These dolls are extremely colorful and beautifully crafted and dresses. They look almost life- like. Punjabi dolls are made almost over Punjab, but the most important center is Chandigarh. In Southern India the themes of the dolls and toys include popular characters from Indian folklore and epics.
These dolls not only make perfect toys for kids, but also gorgeous decorative items. They can be used to decorate almost any part of the house. Handmade Indian dolls are gaining popularity not only in India, but also abroad. This is because the materials they are made with are absolutely natural. Many environmentally friendly people prefer these toys and dolls to plastic toys which are widely available in the markets. Attractive, colorful, child friendly and inexpensive- it is little wonder as to why these dolls are so loved!