Jhabua Dolls : Exquisite Offering From Madhya Pradesh

“Any item should not be considered waste, it can be utilised to produce something beautiful, special, inventive and creative” , these words from a famous artisan Mrs Kamla Dafaal encapsulates the fundamental principle behind the creation of Jhabua dolls.

Jhabua dolls are manufactured in the tribal region of Madhya Pradesh.The most prominent tribal groups in the Jhabua region are Bhil, Bhilala and Patila.The making of the Jhabua dolls has a significant contribution in the livelihood of every household in the village.

In the traditional households of Jhabua, this practice is referred to as ‘Adivasi Gudia Hastashilp‘.

Each doll illustrates the day to day lifestyle of every women residing in the Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh. The dolls are prepared in such a manner that they are engaged in various activities including tilling of farms and collection of fruits.

Image of a Jhabua Doll ( Credits : )

Physical Replica of the Tribal Population

The physical appearance of all the dolls are similar to the tribal population of the region.These dolls not only replicate the lifestyle of the tribal community, but also represent the appearance of the rural women. They also have kohled eyes, prominent facial features and are adorned with the traditional ethnic wear. The female dolls are adorned with the necklaces which are made up of either silver or colourful beads and the bangles. The tribal women also wear the same kind of jewellery.

The Cultural Rituals

Each and every Jhabua doll depicts the rich cultural heritage of the region. It has emerged as a unique toy craft from Central India. It has also had a substantial contribution in providing employment opportunities to the entire community. These dolls are considered an important part of the traditional customs amongst each family of the region. The newly married brides and mothers are gifted these dolls as a part of a ritual.

There are mainly two types of handmade dolls- rag dolls and stuffed dolls. Jhabua dolls mainly come under the category of stuffed dolls. Earlier the dolls were about 8-12 inches long and in the modern times, these dolls are 10- 12 feet long.

Image of Jhabua dolls depicting tribal population (Credits:

Major Raw Materials

Following raw materials are used in this innovative art of doll making-

  • Bright Fabrics
  • Clay
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Cotton
  • Wires
  • Beads
  • Metal Jewellery
  • Silver Paint
  • Bamboo

The Making of the Jhabua Dolls

The making of these special dolls is a sustainable process in itself. The fact that these beautiful dolls are made using the upcycled cloths exemplifies the affiliation of this innovative craft with the environmental friendly concept of sustainability.

                              Process of Making the Dolls ( Credits: )

§  A cotton cloth is delineated with different body parts through the blue ink.

§  Afterwards, two layers of fabric are sewed together along the marked lines to create the various parts of the body of the doll. The demarcated parts are stitched with hands and they are filled with cotton for turgidity.

§  Basically, different body parts of the dolls are sewed together as per the shape of the doll using a peculiar method called Pakkatanka.

§  After all the parts are combined, the face of the doll is sculpted with chaak mitti, glue and paper which is fired using cow dung cakes until they are dried.

§  The face of the doll is overlaid with cotton fabric and its facial features are
then painted using the dyes.

§  The hairs are made by stitching the scalp of the doll with few strands of wool.

§  Thereafter, the clothes are stitched for the dolls as per its size.

§  The doll is then decorated with the different jewellery and accessories.

§  The wire is inserted within the limbs for establishing their exact position. 

§  The dolls become ready when the wires extruding from their limbs are attached to a wooden plank for a balanced look.


Jewelleries of Male Dolls ( Credits: )

                         Jewelleries of the Female Dolls (Credits :

Creative Application of Upcycling

Upcycling has gained massive popularity in the contemporary world. The fact that it helps in the usage of the discarded items makes it all the more desirable from the point of view of creativity. The fundamental idea of upcycling is to reuse those items which would have been discarded otherwise by redesigning them into a new product. The fact that it is  utilized in manufacturing of Jhabua dolls makes it quite appropriate in the contemporary times.

Benefits of Upcycling

The idea of upcycling gained public attention through a book – “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” which was authored by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. It was published in 2002. It has a lot of advantages for Planet Earth.

Firstly, it minimizes the need to extract raw materials for manufacturing a brand new product.

Secondly, it enhances the length of the usage of the product which ultimately leads to a considerable reduction in the generation of the landfill.

Finally, the conservation of natural resources and diminished need of manufacturing results in lowering the amount of carbon emissions.

The Colour Story of the Jhabua Dolls

      • All the weapons of these dolls are of natural colours.

      • The colours which are more popular in the Jhabua region are used in the manufacturing of all the dolls .

      • The body parts of each doll are majorly of dark and light brown colour.

    Resemblance with Crafts of Other Regions

    The aesthetic features of the Jhabua dolls have been derived from the puppet making art of Rajasthan and the ethnic art of beads and jewelleries from Gujarat. The visual representation of the Jhabua dolls is greatly influenced from the large colorful dolls used in the string puppetry in Rajasthan.

    Even the dressing style of the female dolls is inspired from the bridal costume of Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. This can be deemed as a thoughtful gesture in order to promote the feeling of nationalism.

    A Male Jhabua Doll ( Credits:

    Noteworthy Efforts for Resurgence of the Craft

    Late Mr. Uddhav Gidwani initiated the process of educating the local community this unique craft in 1952-53. He was a senior artisan involved in providing sustainable livelihood opportunities and spreading reasonable awareness about the social, cultural and religious significance of this craft. He founded Shakti emporium. It is a commendable platform for all the tribal women artisans who receive considerable knowledge about the art of doll making from here. His son – Mr.  Subhash Gidwani has showcased these dolls at more than three hundred exhibitions.

    Another famous artisan who has immensely contributed towards further development of this art is Mrs.Kamla Dafaal .She has played a very important part in educating the tribal women of Central Jail of Bhopal about this craft. Her role is of paramount importance in the foundation of Akar Gudiya Ghar in Bhopal in1996. It has emerged as a popular centre for maximizing the self employment opportunities for the women artisans from the backward community.

    The Tribal Co-operative Marketing Federation of India which functions under the Tribal Affairs Ministry also filed an application to assign the Geographical Indication Tag to this craft in 2020 in order to affirm the creative identity of Jhabua.

    Where can you get a glimpse of Jhabua dolls?

    The most popular market for these dolls in Madhya Pradesh includes Mrignayani emporium at Hamidia Road, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh State Emporium ,Handicrafts Emporium, Ujjain and Ratlam. However, they can also be found in the craft markets of Delhi and Jaipur. These dolls are also available at the famous Bhagoriya Hat Bazaar.

    The glimpse of these beautiful dolls can also be found in the various exhibitions arranged at the national level. Recently, the Aadi Mahotsav was organised in Dilli haat, INA, New Delhi as an effort to celebrate the spirit of tribal crafts, culture and commerce  in February 15th’ 2021. It provided all the tribal craftsmen an opportunity to sell the exclusive tribal handicrafts , paintings and the organic tribal produce.

    The government is also involved in its exhibition. Therefore, anyone of you can find these beautiful dolls at popular fairs and exhibition across India . You can get your visual treat at Delhi (Pragati Maidan), Jaipur, Khajuraho, Hyderabad, Rohtak, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Raipur, Chandigarh, Haryana and Bhopal.

    List of Countries where Jhabua Dolls are exported and exhibited (Credits:

    Point to Ponder

    India is an abode of numerous indigenous crafts. As citizens, we all must take pride in the fact that we are surrounded by such humongous amount of talent. Also, we should never miss any opportunity to encourage these blessed artisans in whichever way we can. In the meanwhile, you all can engage yourself in appreciating the beauty of these elegant dolls for a little while.

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