Shankar’s International Dolls Museum
Set up in 1965 in the building of Children’s Book Trust, Shankar’s International Dolls Museum or Delhi Dolls Museum has today over 6500 dolls on display representing the social life and culture of over 85 countries of the world. Inaugurated by the President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishan and named after its creator, the renowned political cartoonist, K Shankar Pillai, the museum has one of the largest collections of costume dolls in the world. Started with just thousand dolls, the museum is quite popular with Indian citizens and foreign dignitaries because of its large number of variety of exhibits. The museum is at present is divided into two sections. One section house exhibits from European countries, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and some other countries while the other section has exhibits from Asian countries like India, the Middle East and Africa.
Dressed in their respective regional costumes, the dolls represent the social life, culture, climate and folklore of the region or place they come from. Thus, the museum can aptly be described as the confluence or meeting place of various acculturations and social life of the world. Of all the exhibits, nearly one-third of the total number of dolls belongs to different parts of our country showcasing India’s vast and varied social life and tradition.
Though all the dolls displayed in the museum are attractive and worth viewing but still there are some dolls that deserves a special mention. Among the Indian ones, the costume dolls of Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and that of some ethnic tribes should not be missed. A 250 year-old doll from Switzerland, the Kabuki Dancer of Japan, costume doll from Bulgaria, Indonesia’s bridal pairs, Australian Maoris, Mexican Aborigines and dolls from African countries are worth giving a second look. The overall outlook of these dolls speaks a lot about their region’s cultural history, their mythologies and folklore. Apart from these there are also special displays in the museum based on specific themes like Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March, a forest scene, a Kathakali dance, man on moon and many other ones that attracts the visitants.
The museum also has a Dolls Workshop and a Dolls Designing Center of its own, which makes Indian dolls with accurate details. A lot of research is put in and the minutest details are taken care off like features, dress, jewellery and posture when a doll is made. There is an interesting collection just near the museum of over 150 kinds of authentic Indian costume dolls made at Dolls Workshop. The museum provides the facility of exchanging unique dolls and also sells in India and abroad.