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Tarak Sutradhar, Wooden Dolls
Address: Village & P.O: Senara
PS : Raghunathpur
Purulia 723121
 
53 year old Tarak Sutradhar is one of the last traditional wooden doll craftsmen in his village, Senara in Purulia. He along with his two brothers, and his son are in fact the only artisans left in the village who continue to uphold this simple, rustic and beautiful art. Tarak recalls that there were artisans in neighbouring villages like Brindabanpur, in his childhood , but the art has long vanished from these places.

He buys branches of the Simul tree for his work from tribal villages usually. An investment of about Rs 500 will yield about 200 small dolls. He sells his toys only once a year at the 10 day Bero mela near Raghunathpur town, selling each piece for a meagre Rs 30. This is a very popular fair, attracting thousands of visitors annually. For the rest of the year, Tarak earns his living doing carpentry and crafting images from clay or even cement in anticipation of the festive puja season. At times, he also receives orders for wooden sculptures from the villagers. 

They start crafting the wooden dolls from about 15 days prior to Poush Sankranti. It takes him half an hour to carve a  doll from a block of wood. The dolls are first chiseled from the wood and once the carving is completed, they are then painted in batches. The doll is first coated with khori mati paste (china clay) . Details of the garment are then outlined in black fabric paint with a fine brush before the solid colours are applied. Synthetic red and yellow coloured powder, bought from the market, are dissolved separately in a solution made by boiling powdered tamarind seeds in water and then applied to the plastered surface. A coat of varnish after the paint has dried provides the final touch. Usually, the entire family shares the various tasks between them, with the women usually pitching in to help with the plastering and painting. 

Tarak says that it is not economically feasible for him to produce anything beyond the simple man-woman dolls he crafts. While he is perfectly capable of crafting the raja-rani or Gour-Nitai dolls (with the raised hands), the meagre price that his dolls fetch, does not make the effort worthwhile. Therefore he does not venture beyond the simplest rani form. He has not heard of Natungram but has seen the famous wooden owls of this village. The term Mummy Putul too is not familiar to him. Tarak says his dolls are very much in demand at the Bero mela and are simply known as kaather putul. He rues the fact that urban visitors at the mela, come only to take pictures, but rarely buy. 

Tarak is a man of many talents. When he finds the time, he also assists the local Alkap folk theatre team as a make-up man, and whenever necessary, substitutes as an actor as well. 

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Tarak Sutradhar : Doll Maker of Senara
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