Workshop to revive interest in Bengal’s shellac dolls

Kolkata, June 9 (IANS) A two-day workshop will be held to revive interest in the dying technique of applying shellac on terracotta. The aim is to revive interest in the age-old art form, an official said.

At the ‘Laksha Deep’ workshop on June 13 and 14, participants will learn the process of firing terracotta figures and pottery with shellac from Brindaban Chanda, one of the last surviving traditional shellac doll makers of West Bengal.

Organised by the Kolkata-based Chalachitra Academy, a social enterprise connecting traditional and contemporary artists with enthusiasts, the workshop will also enlighten enthusiasts on the history of the glaze finish on terracotta dolls of Bengal.

“Around 1500 A D. the shellac art form entered Bengal from western part of India with the encouragement of Raja Mann Singh. Initially, the shellac artisans of Bengal used to cover the terracotta bangles with shellac and sell them at rural fairs. Later, they shifted to covering terracotta dolls with shellac.

“The making of terracotta dolls in a form almost similar to that of ‘Mother God’ form found in Harappan ruins is also a traditional art of Bengal,” said Mrinal Mandal of the academy.

This craft can be seen in Birbhum, Bankura and Midnapore districts though only a few craftsmen practice it nowadays.

Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug found on trees. After processing, it is mixed with colours and then applied on baked and dried terracotta figures. In Bengal, shellac is called ‘gala’ and the painted dolls (or ‘putul’ in Bengali) are known as ‘galar putul’.

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