MATERIAL USED: CLAY
Traditional toys of our country have strong narratives behind them. Making of these toys is one of the traditional folk-art. West Bengal has a long history of many such artists and art forms. One can find both, molded and handmade dolls here. TEPA PUTUL is one such type of doll which is made from soft clay by applying pressure through hands and fingers. The form gets its name from the Bengali word TEPA, meaning pressing. “HEEM PUTUL” or “HINGUL PUTUL” of Bishnupur, is one of the most fascinating varieties of TEPA PUTUL.
Tracing back to more than 700 years, a clan originating from an ancient village named Baradwar, now, Kunda district in Rajasthan came to Bengal and started living in and around the Bishnupur area. This part was then ruled by the “Malla dynasty”. A member of this clan served one of the “Malla” kings as an army commander and received praise and the title of “Foujdar” for the clan. Since then, they use it as their surname. Women of these families are traditionally making “Heem Putul”.
Hingul, a bright red muddy material consisting of Mercuric Sulphide, is traditionally used to color these dolls. This is the reason they are called “HINGUL PUTUL”. Unlike terracotta, these dolls are dried in sun. Various kinds of herbal and natural colors are used to paint them.
These dolls don’t have realistic structures, but the pattern, color, and form have a story of our culture and socio-economical situation of different ages. The dress pattern of these dolls is ghagra-choli, for female dolls, and frilled kurtas, for male dolls. Colonial influences might have increased the variety of dress patterns. Nowadays, we can see both western and Indian designs ranging from frocks to gowns, in female dolls and a typical cap for male dolls. One can also find “SHASHTHI PUTUL”, the traditional female deity, who blesses motherhood. People in and around Bengal have been worshipping “Maa Shashthi” in the form of these dolls. A couple dolls was once an integral part of the Bengali marriage tradition. They were usually sent as a gift, to be given to either the Groom & his family or the Bride and her family at Bengali Weddings. These gifts are popularly known as “TATTHO” in Bengali. “HEEM DOLLS” are also a popular part of child’s play. Monmela understands the need of conserving and reviving this art form, its colorful heritage, and its creators, the only “Foujdar” family left in Bishnupur. Our initiative is thus to popularise these dolls among the kids of India and beyond.