Gala putul or Lac Dolls
Material Used : LAC
Lac dolls from Ilambazar, Birbhum district, had reached to the top of its fame in the past. From the works of famous Bengali writer TaraShankar Bandyopadhyay we can find the old glory of Lac Dolls of Bengal. He wrote the lists of dolls and playing instruments of the families of nwabs and Badshahs of Bengal in medieval period always include something from Lac Crafts of Ilambazar. Even almost all affluent Bengali homes used Lac crafts as home decor from Ilambazar. But years before, the craftsmen of Ilambazar have stopped making Lac dolls.
Researchers say, during 15th century, the fine and picturesque craftsmanship of Lac, entered Bengal from the western part of India with the positive influence and inspiration of Raja Maan Singh. Before that, especially tribal girls of Bengal used Lac coating on terracotta bangles. Afterwards Handmade dolls or Tepa Putul were started to be coated by lac and the tradition of Lac Dolls of Bengal were iniciated.
Now a days in Panchrole village near Egra and Khar- Paschimsai Village of Patashpur Block-2 of Purba Medinipur, Lac Dolls are being made. Brindaban Chanda (age-60) of Paschimsai is the only prominent artist who is struggling hard to keep the tradition of famous Bengali Gala Putul alive. His family business is of conch shell works. Still they are making Lac dolls for almost three generations. But the complex making process and lack of proper promotions and marketing strategies, the next generation is losing interest towards this craft.
As Brindaban Babu says, the best soil for these dolls is the soil from weir mounds, as this soil is smooth and devoid of gravels. In deficit of weir mounds loamy soil from the local paddy fields are being used. First the dry soil is well pressed, then submerged in water for few days then again smoothen against a wooden plank and finally the soil is ready for use. After making the basic soil structure, it has been dried under shades and under sun one after another and then is burned within a clay oven normally used for boiling rice. Coloured Lac sticks are prepared using dry colour dusts. The dolls are heated in charcoal fire and being painted with those Lac sticks and finally bordered by Lac Strings of various colours.
Along with Shoshthi Putul, Brindaban Babu makes other Hindu and local deities, birds and animals too. The prime minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi is gifted by a local MLA, a Lac doll previously known as Ghot Ganesh made by Brindaban Chanda and thus it has got its name Modi Ganesh. Brindaban babu now a days does some workshops of Lac doll making in a reputed institution in Kolkata, still the glorious heritage of Bengali Gala Putul and the existing creator of these dolls remain unknown and outcast to the general public.