Clay fantasies of real-life; stylized, sometimes even graphic in their representations, mark traditional Indian clay dolls and toys. But the dolls and idols of Krishnanagar in Bengal are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish. Patronized by Maharaja Krishnachandra himself in the late 18th century, they truly represent a breakaway from the traditional form. Fruits, fish, insects, animals, birds, and of course the entire pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, and even the ubiquitous Donald Duck and other popular comic strip characters, faithful copies of real-life, down to the minutest detail. Realistic recreations of everyday life, work, mood and character- farmers, weavers, rag pickers, basket makers, umbrella makers - are yet other specialties of Krishnanagar dolls.
The resplendent image of Durga the Mother goddess, or a solitary Baul - Bengal's clay dolls rise beyond mere playthings, into an artist's dream. In all these the choice of colors, simplicity of form, spontaneity and propriety of ornamentation present a unique blend of society and religion. Many artisans today work for clay craft in terracotta, in and around Calcutta.
The terracotta horse from Panchmura, popularly known as the Bankura horse, with its elegant stance, is perhaps the best example of the impact of modern times. It has shaken itself of its ritualistic connotation and has run through the whole world as an ambassador of Indian folk art.
Kolkata is two and a half hours by air, from Delhi.