Thanjavur doll is a traditional handicrafts of Thanjavur region of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is a type of handmade doll which is made using traditional methods using very less mechanical tools. Special feature which differentiates this doll from others is its bobble head and roly poly structure. Doll’s head is larger than its body, hence it moves likes a pendulum and do no fall sideways.
Thanjavur doll are basically made using terracotta and are purely handmade and hand painted by skilled artists. The dolls and toys are given multiple shapes, sizes, colours and styles by these artists to represent various traditional dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Manupuri, etc. There are 4 different part of the doll which gives them their unique movement: legs, head, upper body and lower body.
Local people of Thanjavur call it “thanjavur Thalaiyatti Bommai” in Tamil which means bobble head dolls or head shaking dolls. It is an ancient art of 19th century during the regime of Saraboji’s Kingdom.
Thanjavur dolls are in very high demand during the Navratri season in South India as it represent the Hindu Indian culture. It is also in very hight demand from the foreign countries due to it’s unique feature and appearance. Thanjavur dolls was added to the Geographical Indications of India by the Government of India in 2008.
Thanjavur dolls are not so expensive as they are traditionally made from wood and terracotta clay. Some dolls are made from brass which are a bit expensive from the clay ones. Best place to buy dolls in Thanjavur is around the Punnainallur Mariamman temple area of the city.
Making Thanjavur dolls is carried out as a traditional business running from generations. The skills have been passed down from generations to generations. But in todays modern and competitive world it is facing a lot of competition from the machine made toys from across the world. The traditional artisans are finding it hard to survive because of the competition from the plastic toys which are a lot cheaper and made in bulk using machineries.