Madhya Pradesh is a state which is known for its unique handicrafts. Once you deep dive into the mesmerizing world of handicrafts of MP, you will come across several cities and small towns where handicraft is not just a livelihood for people living there but is also a source of identity for them.
The heritage city of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, that is popularly known for its forts, museums and monuments, is also famous for its unique Batto Bai Dolls. This distinguished craft is named after Batto Bai, an enterprising craftswoman from Gwalior. Her fourth generation family members continue to carry forward the legacy of crafting these unique dolls to perfection. These dolls range from few inches to almost 2 ft. in height are popular to decorate the household.
Sharing some insights on her career, Batto Bai’s grandson, Bharat Singh Parihar, says, “My grandmother learnt the art of making these handmade dolls from her mother-in-law after she got married. Later, my mother Naval Kishori learnt it from my grandmother, and today even my wife is into the business of making Batto Bai dolls, in Gwalior. All the ladies of our family have been creating these dolls for years now and we are proud to take forward the legacy and pass it on to the next generation”.
He further says, “We produce everything in-house and it is all done by the ladies in the family. Bharat Art shop is where you can reach out to us to buy the authentic Batto Bai dolls. Tourists usually shop for these dolls during melas and fairs that are put up across the city. The price for Batto Bai dolls starts from only Rs. 100, per pair.
Handcrafted by using rags, paper, clay, cotton, wires, silver paint, bamboos and bright traditional fabrics, Batto Bai Dolls have an exotic tribal feel to them. Also, these are made of organic colours that are permanent in nature. The expressions and costumes of these traditional dolls are all very traditional, inspired from real-life instances. These dolls are always made and sold in pairs. Batto Bai, the lady who gave birth to the idea of hand-made dolls in Gwalior, is an internationally acclaimed artist who has won many state as well as central government awards for her contribution to India’s pristine handicrafts heritage.
Talking about the interesting story behind the ‘Pair Tradition’ Batto Bai’s grandson also said, “These dolls are always sold in pairs because there is the tradition behind it. Also known as Gudda-Gudiya, the dolls are considered auspicious for unmarried young girls, who buy a pair each on Akha Teej that happens in April. They then get these pairs married at their homes, hoping to be married themselves soon, which they eventually do!”
With its increasing popularity, one more version of these dolls are also created in Bhopal and Jhabua region as well. Charmingly dressed in bright, traditional clothing, these rustic dolls are influenced by the different cultures of the country. This authentic Indian art is now spreading its charms in popular nations across the globe that include Japan, France, Australia, USA, among other countries.
If you happen to be in Madhya Pradesh, then you can easily buy Batto Bai Dolls from several places in Gwalior like Laskar, Bada, Nai Sadak or handicraft shops put up in Gwalior fairs and exhibitions, every year. They can be great souvenirs to take back home or can be bought as unique gifts for your loved ones. You can also decorate your homes with these dolls if you are a fan of handmade artefacts.
These handmade dolls are interesting interpretations of our different traditions and cultures; and are preserving Gwalior’s essence and uniqueness in an exotic art form.
So, when are you travelling to Gwalior to buy your pair of Batto Bai dolls?