The people of West Bengal are passionate about art, crafts, music and literature. This state of India has been a hub for art and crafts since the antiquity. One of the most ancient crafts of India, the clay craft has been preserved by West Bengal. Art of clay doll making is very popular and this art gained momentum in the late 16th century under the patronage of King Krishnachandra of Krishnanagar. These clay dolls are made by pressing and molding the clay dough. Clay paste is used for sticking together all the parts that were separately molded. Finally the dolls are baked in high temperature kiln. Vibrant colors used to paint these dolls give these dolls life like forms. Some of the famous types of clay dolls are: Pressed-nose Dolls – Ranging from 1-2 inches and 4-5 inches, these dolls have attractive blue and red stripes, on white coating. Horse Riders (with & without wheels) – These dolls which are 4 to 5 inches in height are shown riding a horse. Mother Dolls of – Red Sonamukhi Dolls and black Panchmura dolls are the two most famous mother dolls. Dolls with Hip Jars – Women carrying water pots on their hips are depicted in these dolls. Krishnanagar Dolls – They are real-life stylized dolls and very expensive.
Apart from these clay dolls, artisans display their craftsmanship on clay to make toys, Gods/Goddesses statues, animals and birds, pots and other utility ware. Clay craft artisans follow two different schools. One in which the clay craft is not baked and the other one is the terracotta school in which the clay craft is baked to give the desired hardness. The districts of Bankura, Murshidabad and Midnapore in West Bengal are mostly famous for clay art.
Bankura horse made of terracotta is an exemplary of the rich clay tradition of West Bengal and is famous in India and across the globe. In Bengal, they are not only used to decorate the house but are also of religious significance. Bankura horses are the holy horses used in the chariot of God Dharmaraj(a form of Sun God) which makes them auspicious. Ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet in height, these Bankura horses exhibit the exquisite craftsmanship of the artisans of west Bengal. Bankura horses, clay dolls and pottery made of clay and terracotta are among the famous crafts of West Bengal.