Shankar's Dolls Museum

The International Dolls Museum, a.k.a. Shankar Dolls Museum is a place of collection of varied dolls from all over the world and is situated in the capital of India- Delhi. It was started by K. Shankar Pillai in 1965. He was a renowned political cartoonist who had good political connection to see this project take off. The museum is situated inside the Children's Book Trust building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. A set of staricase from the ground floor leads the visitors to the museum entrance through a foyer. It was K. Shankar Pillai only who had also started the Children's Book Trust for promoiting children's literature in the country in 1957.

The Start of the museum

Shankar Dolls Museum Delhi

It is before he started the museum that one day Mr. Shankar received a doll as a gift from a Hungarian diplomat and it was this gift that prompted him with an idea to start a doll museum and collect all kinds of dolls from all over the world. After this, whenever he travelled to any country, he would make it a point to get some dolls from there. The idea was to explore each countries traditions and fashion manifested in the form of the doll's make and clothing. He started holding exhibitions for poor children in Delhi and as the destiny would have it, at one such exhibition, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was present with his daughter Indira Gandhi who got so inspired by the idea that she suggested to Mr. Shankar that they set up an exclusive international dolls museum. On November 30th, 1965 it got inaugurated by the then President of India, DR. S. Radhakrishnan.

The Layout

The place is divided into two parts; one section has all the exhibits from different European countries like the U.S., Australia, Germany, Russia, etc and the other part has exhibits from Africa, Middle East and India. A thousand feet long display glass covers the walls of these two parts and has 160 glass cases kept inside it.

The Collection

The main dolls among the other dolls on display from India are the ones that have been gifted by Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru and the other former Prime Ministers like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, etc. It also has dolls gifted to it by the ambassadors and diplomats of several other countries who have their embassies here. Also, many important dignitaries to the museum have brought along beautiful dolls with them. These dignitaries include Shah of Iran's sister, wives of the former Presidents of Mexico, Queen Frederika of Greece, etc. They all have had brought the dolls that represent the culture and art of their respective countries.

At the time of its inauguration, the place consisted of around 500 dolls. With time, this number took gigantic leaps and was already around 5000 by the end of 1987. Today this number has increased even more and so, now the collection stands at around 6,500 and includes dolls representing cultures and styles of over 85 countries. The museum today represents a plethora of rich cultural exhibits that are educating for the children, as well as adults. There are some 150 Indian dolls from various religions, cultures and of different times. These costumed dolls have been created by highly skilled craftsmen in the museum's own workshop located inside the same building. Each doll is made following a detailed research into the traditional dress, jewelery and styles of the people of the respective geographic region. It is this hard work that helped the dolls here in getting the First prize at the Golden Peacock Feather Award function at Dolls Biennale in Cracow in Poland in 1980; many subsequent awards have followed since then. The dolls are even exchanged for other doll gifts from various countries. They are even sold to collectors, both in India and abroad.

In 1976, Mr. Shankar Pillai was honored by the Government of India by bestowing him with Padma Vibhushan award, which is the second highest civilian award that our country awards to civilians for their distinctive contribution to the society at large.

Timings and other details

The museum timings are from 10 am. to 6.00 pm. (It doesn't close for any lunch breaks). The entry fee is very nominal at Rs. 15/- for adults and Rs. 5/- for children. Special provisions are in place for facilitating school trips and picnics; concessional ticket rates of Rs. 3/- per child if they come in a group of 20 or more. TH ticket counter opens up at 10 am in the morning and closes by 5.30 pm in the evening.