Set up by the renowned political cartoonist, K. Shankar Pillai (1902-1989),
Shankar's International Dolls Museum has one of the largest collection
of costume dolls anywhere in the world.
Housed in the building of the Children's Book Trust on Bahadur Shah
Zafar Marg, New Delhi, the Museum occupies a floor area of 5184.5
feet-a portion of the first floor. A separate entrance with a stately
winding staircase leads up to a foyer. Inside, the Museum is divided
into two equal halves. The two sections have over 160 glass cases,
1000 ft. long, mounted on the walls. One section has exhibits from
countries, the U.K., the U.S.A, Australia, New Zealand, Commonwealth
of Independent States and the other from Asian countries, the Middle
East, Africa and India. There are also special displays besides a representative
collection from the over 150 kinds of authentic Indian costume dolls
made at the Dolls Workshop attached to the Museum.
dolls made at the workshop are exchanged for gifts received from abroad
as sold to collectors and museums in India and abroad. Each doll is
handcrafted after meticulous research into the physical attributes,
dress and jewellery of individual characters. Little wonder then, the
dolls won the First prize-Golden Peacock Feather-at the Dolls Biennale
held in Cracow, Poland, in 1980. The Museum's collection of costume
dolls was inspired by a gift of a single doll, which Shankar received
from the Hungarian Ambassador in the early fifties, to be given away
as a prize in the Shankar's International Children's Competition.
Shankar fell in love with the doll. With the permission of the
kept the doll for himself. So fascinated was he with this Hungarian
doll that Shankar, thereafter, began collecting costume dolls whenever
he went abroad. His visits were frequent, he being a part of the group
of journalists accompanying the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal
Soon he had a collection
of around 500 dolls which he decided to exhibit in various places in
India alongwith the paintings done by children. The frequent packing
and unpacking resulted in damage to the dolls much to Shankar's consternation.
At an exhibition held in Delhi, which was visited by Jawaharlal Nehru
and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, Shankar voiced his concern for the
damaged dolls. Promptly a suggestion came from Indira Gandhi: Why not
a permanent museum for the dolls?
So, when the Children's Book Trust was putting up its building, a portion
was set apart and planned as a museum for the dolls.
The Museum was ready
in 1965 and it was inaugurated by the then President of India, Dr. S.
Radhakrishnan, who appropriately named the building, 'Nehru House' after
the late Prime Minister. The Museum started with a thousand dolls. Between
1965 and 1987 another five thousand were added-a vast majority coming
as gifts. Today the volume has increased to 6,500 exhibits from almost
eighty-five countries, giving it a truly international character.
The Museum is listed
in the itinerary of all visitors to Delhi. Some of the important dignitaries
who have visited the Museum and recorded their appreciation are: U.
Thant the then Secretary General of United Nations, Madame Tito of Yugoslavia,
Queen Frederika of Greece, the Queen of Thailand, the sister of Shah
of Iran, the wives of the President of Mexico and Indonesia, of the
Prime Ministers of Poland and South Korea and the UN Secretary General
and cultural delegations from many countries.
The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. without any lunch break.
The entry fees are Rs. 17/- for adults and Rs. 6/- for children. Children in groups of 20 will be charged at the concessional rate of Rs. 3.37 per child. The ticket counter closes at 5.30 p.m.