Wooden dolls of Burdwan
Wooden dolls of Burdwan (source - www.daricha.org)

The Wood Craft Heritage of Burdwan

Dolls: they are beautiful like Barbie, or even intimidating like Anabelle, and are loved by all. But if you have a special liking for wooden dolls, Burdwan is just the right place for you. Let’s travel to this district of West Bengal to know about their amazingly awesome wooden crafts.

Where is Burdwan?

Burdwan [aka Bardhaman] is a district located at the heart of West Bengal. The famous Natungram cluster is located there. Natungram is famous for its woodcraft, which is, by the way, an age-old tradition over there.

A craftsman making wooden dolls
A craftsman making wooden dolls

The story of these woodcrafts:

Actually, these woodcrafts started off as, well yes, stone carvings. The king at that time used to encourage these carvings a lot, and hence the occupation was flourishing. But, after the fall of the king, this tradition came to a standstill. Instead of stone, the craftsmen moved on to wood as a medium to carve on.

Soon, they were making a living with the help of fine arts and wooden dolls. The males do the skilled carvings and females enhance it with colours which brought the crafts to life.

A Krishna wooden doll
A Krishna wooden doll

All about their woodcrafts:

The sculptures are mostly made from white teak wood. But, mango wood, shimul wood, and ata wood are also used. Dolls of Gaur-Nitai, Krishna, Shiva, Kali, Durga, a royal couple [king and queen], bride, etc are typically made. But, the wooden owl is the special one of them all. It was traditionally used to worship Goddess Lakshmi.

The special and infamous wooden owl which was also used to worship Goddess Lakshmi
The special and infamous wooden owl which was also used to worship Goddess Lakshmi

This wood carving tradition is so deeply rooted in their culture, even their family names reflect that! The last name ‘Bhaskar’ which means “sculptor” indicates their craftsmanship heritage. Also, another last name ‘Sutradhar’ which translates to “storyteller”, as most of the dolls were inspired by mythological characters.

Wooden dolls inspired by mythological characters
Wooden dolls inspired by mythological characters

So make sure you don’t miss to get some of these dolls if you got a chance to; bring them as souvenirs, or keep some for yourself!