In the heart of Bihar’s Champaran districts, a tradition once overshadowed by plastic toys is experiencing a revival, thanks to Namita Azad. The Kanyaputri dolls, handcrafted by girls and women, were fading into obscurity until Azad, a teacher-entrepreneur, stepped in to resurrect and popularize this rich tradition.
Growing up in Manjhariya village in Bihar’s West Champaran district, Azad imbibed the artistry surrounding Kanyaputri dolls. Crafted from fabric scraps, these dolls carried a heartfelt narrative. The dolls, made during the Saavan (monsoon) season, were a symbol of love between brothers and sisters. Sisters meticulously crafted the dolls for their brothers, and the celebration involved a dip in a nearby pond, followed by the exchange of sweets.
Bihar’s Kanyaputri Doll Tradition Resurrected by Teacher-Entrepreneur Namita Azad
While the tradition had faded due to the intrusion of plastic toys, Azad, the founder of Crafts ‘N’ Creations in Patna, decided to bring it back to life. Her journey began by using these dolls as a medium for teaching various subjects in classrooms. The dolls, made entirely by hand, not only captivated the eye but also proved to be eco-friendly.
Namita Azad’s Crafts ‘N’ Creations Breathes New Life into Forgotten Tradition
In 2013, Azad took a bold step, leaving her job to dedicate herself full-time to resurrecting Kanyaputri dolls. Starting with two house-help, she collected fabric scraps from tailoring places and fabric centers, crafting the dolls herself. The response was overwhelming, with her first batch selling out in two days at the Khadi Mall in Patna.
Encouraged by this success, Azad sought support from various institutions, including Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan, NIFT Patna, Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh, and others. Slowly, she expanded her team, now comprising 15 women, all contributing to the artistry of Kanyaputri dolls.
Diverging from the traditional “girl” dolls, Azad and her team now create a variety of dolls – family dolls, those depicting nuclear and joint families, mermaids, and more. These dolls serve not only as cultural artifacts but also convey social messages. Some are designed to educate on the importance of nutrition for pregnant women and children, finding a place in schools for educational purposes.
Azad’s dedication to preserving and promoting the Kanyaputri Dolls art earned her the Bihar Handcraft State Award in 2023. The dolls, available at various state emporiums, Bihar Museum, Dilli Haat, and through fairs and exhibitions, range from Rs 100 to Rs 5,000, depending on intricacy and accessories.
While the business is profitable, Azad is steadfast in maintaining the traditional process of doll-making. She ensures that the women involved are well-trained, staying true to the concept and tradition. The inclusion of cloth dolls in the Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman Yojana reflects the growing recognition of this art form.
Azad’s vision extends beyond commerce; she plans to conduct training camps in her village to revive interest among women. Her journey is not just about reviving a tradition; it’s a story of empowering women through art, preserving cultural heritage, and ensuring that the rich legacy of Kanyaputri dolls continues to thrive.