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Terracotta Dolls from Bishnupur - Heemputul of Bengal

Story about the Heemputul of Bengal

Bishnupur, is a small town of West Bengal which apart from their terracotta artwork, is famous for its soft clay dolls or ‘Heem Putul’ which are handcrafted by a group of women belonging to the artist families of Foujdars. Bengal has an ancient heritage of clay toys and dolls including terracotta figures.These dolls are created following the traditional techniques of doll-making that have been passed on for generations now.

Hingul aka Heemputul have become very popular these days. These dolls are the folk version of the traditional Shoshthi dolls. The basic difference between a Hingul and a Shoshthi doll is that the latter will always be shown as carrying a child. Heemputul are made of clay and dried under the sun and dyed with various herbal colours which make them look vibrant. Traditionally cinnabar (locally called hingul; a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide), was used as a pigment to colour these dolls.

The women from Foujdar family in Bishnupur, have continued making these dolls even today. Made of clay, traditionally cinnabar is used to colour these dolls. Bankura and Purulia districts have mines of cinnabar. The interesting fact about these small dolls is their attire. Most of the Heemputul appear in frocks, hats and have a lot of western influence in their structure. Western dolls tepa putul, made by pressing the clay with fingertips have a lot of bearing on Hingul dolls.

At present, Sheetal Faujdar and his family is involved in making these dolls. He is a descendant of Kartik Faujdar, the brilliant artist who introduced Dashavatar cards to the great Malla monarch, Bir Hambhir. The family tradition continues and now Sheetal Faujdar’s household, especially the women in the family carve out exquisitely beautiful Heemputul. They also paint Dashavatar cards and Durga Pata, as they have been doing for generations.

Buy them from Nainsouk - Indigenous Dolls Section

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