May
18

Why You Must Visit Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi with Kids?

Visiting Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi is just as revisiting the lanes of the time-worn childhood memories. Wouldn’t you want to relive those memories with your kids?

Ever wish you could be a kid again? Do you miss those simple and whimsical times? Nowadays it’s all go go go rush rush rush—traffic brawls, pick up the kids, cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills blah blah blah and it never ends. Stress takes a toll.

Once in a while, you must embrace and love your inner child to maintain your sanity. Isn’t it? To soak yourself in long forgotten childhood days; visit this museum in Delhi, housing dolls from countries around the world.

If the idea of spending time at the museum bores you, try visiting Shankar’s International Dolls Museum. Your whole perspective around museums will change. Your kids will love you for this.

An Unplanned Visit to the Dolls Museum

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. (holidays are beautiful because I’m simply so appreciative of the time I get to spend with the family!) While sipping a morning cuppa tea, we (I, hubby and our 8-year-old girl) were planning to visit World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan.

We wanted to reach as soon as it opens (11 a.m) to dodge the expected huge rush. Being book enthusiasts (me and mini-me); we wanted to immerse completely in the joy of book hoarding without any hassle or chaos.

We left home early (okay fine, too early) taking into account predicted traffic conditions and chaos of a capital city. Consequently, we reached much before time (9:45) as usual (we are always on time; mostly before time no matter what’s on our plate and don’t know if it’s good or bad).

Now what? The question was how to invest time rather than killing it? We googled nearby places and discovered this gem of a place just 5 minutes away from Pragati Maidan.

Looking for the historical places to visit in Delhi? Explore the ruins ofTughlaqabad in Delhi.

I mean, just a simple thought of exploring an entire museum just devoted to dolls was exhilarating, especially for mini-me. My daughter chuckled while she quoted Dr. Suess, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” And we were off to a great place!

Main entrance to Shankar's International Dools Museum
Main entrance to Shankar’s International Dolls Museum

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is reminiscent of half-remembered childhood. This place literally feels like a child’s dream come true and for old it’s like traversing one’s childhood. Overall, the dolls museum is a wonderful attraction for young and old alike.

They were opening the museum (10 am) when we reached. Being the first visitor of the day, we had the luxury to stroll around and enjoy the place at ease. After spending around an hour, the visit to the dolls museum felt like really a wise investment of time.

The museum is nothing short of fairyland for young kids especially girls.

My daughter just adored it and she learned about different cultures, costumes, dances and [email protected] And I relived my childhood; with my daughter. She now wants a doll from every country or place we plan to visit 🙂

They really have an amazing collection of dolls. This museum helps children to understand the cultures, traditions, and customs of different countries. It’s like seeing the whole world in one museum!

I was charmed by dolls as they reminded me of my childhood days when I would plan my gudiya ki shaadi with friend’s gudda. I started humming a song by Mary Hopkin, in my mind:

Those were the days my friend

We thought they’d never end

We’d sing and dance forever and a day

We’d live the life we choose

We’d fight and never lose

For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us

We lost our starry notions on the way

If by chance I’d see you in the tavern

We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend…


About Shankar’s International Dolls Museum

The museum was a brainchild of renowned political caricaturist and a founder of Children’s Book Trust Mr. Keshav Shankar Pillai (1902-1989) who wanted this place to be a window to the world for a child. The museum is financed and managed by Children’s Book Trust (CBT) India.

Keshav Shankar Pillai statue just outside the dolls museum in delhi
Keshav Shankar Pillai’s statue just outside the dolls museum in Delhi

K Shankar Pillai collected these dolls from every country he visited as part of Prime Minister’s escort. Majority of the dolls have been gifted to Shankar by the ambassadors or dignitaries of different countries.

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum was awarded Golden Peacock Feather Award at the Dolls Biennale in 1980 inKraków, Poland.

You can’t leave Delhi without visiting the historical wonder called Tomb of Safdarjung!

History

Keshav Shankar Pillai once received a doll dressed in a traditional Hungarian costume as a gift from a Hungarian diplomat. It sparked the idea of collecting the dolls from all the countries he visited. He ideated his collection as Mini United Nations.

Mr. Pillai collected around 500 dolls over the few years while he traveled as a journalist with the first Prime Minister of India. He started holding exhibitions in Delhi that caused damage to some of the dolls. He was worried about the condition of the dolls.

His concern was addressed by Smt. Indira Gandhi when she visited one of his exhibitions in Delhi with her father, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. She gave this brilliant idea of setting up a permanent dolls museum in Delhi.

The Dolls museum was finally inaugurated in 1965 by then Prime Minister of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

Did you know that Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is one of the largest collection of costume dolls in the world?

The Collection

With almost 7,000 vintage dolls from 85 countries, the museum is a world in itself. They are all works of art. The assortment is astonishing and so are the expressions they carry.

The dolls are displayed in two sections – the first section displays the dolls collected from Europe, USA, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Australia, and New Zealand and the second section showcases the dolls collected from Asia, Africa, Middle East, and India.

Displayed in almost 160 glass cases, there are all kinds of dolls viz. ceramic dolls, wax dolls, wooden dolls, soft dolls, clay dolls, string dolls, plastic dolls from countries around the world including unlikely nations like Greenland, Panama, Guatemala, Bolivia, Botswana, Cuba, Lithuania, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Balkans, Yugoslavia, Denmark, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Bulgaria to name a few.

There are also demonstrations of Neil Armstrong’s first moonwalk, Krishna dancing with gopis, scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, and Indian dolls made in the museum’s own workshop.

More than 150 dolls grace the Indian costume dolls section handcrafted in the museum’s own workshop each one dressed in the traditional attire, and jewelry from different Indian states.

With those painstakingly crafted to perfection, true-to-life faces, the dolls look and feel real. As I strolled through the museum from one exhibit to another, the expressions on dolls’ faces reached out to me. They all seem to pulsate with life.

Other notable costume dolls include Maypole dancers from Hungary, Kabuki, and Samurai dancers from Japan, Flamenco dancers from Spain, Kandyan dancers from Sri Lanka and replica of the doll collection owned by the Queen (UK).

The workshop sells the handcrafted Indian dolls to museums and avid collectors all across the world. It also makes special Indian dolls to be interchanged for gifts received from other countries.

Just a suggestion: If you are visiting Delhi as a tourist and want to take back home a beautiful souvenir from Delhi, a handcrafted Indian doll from the museum’s workshop would be a quintessential souvenir.

The rare dolls that are deteriorating with time are taken care of and restored at the “Doll Clinic”.

Even though dolls are kept in glass cases but somehow dust reaches them. Delhi pollution, you know! It must be a challenge for management to clean and restore them carefully.

The oldest in the collection is a Swiss doll lying on a bed made in 1781. Her feeble condition is a hint of its history but I feel museum authority is doing pretty well to preserve it.

The oldest Swiss doll lying on a bed at Shankar's International Dolls Museum in Delhi
The oldest Swiss doll at Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi (Image Courtesy: Children’s Book Trust India)

I particularly loved the collection of bridal couples from various Indian states, the cute South Korean dolls especially the dreamy and cheerful girl at the window, and the Russian dolls with chubby cheeks.

And you know, we were so engrossed in admiring beautiful vintage dolls collection that we didn’t even bother to notice dust-covered specimens or paint flaking off the walls.

Despite its shortcomings and challenges, this 49-year-old museum still manages to attract people. It has been named as one of the most unique museums in the world on several occasions.

We visited World Book Fair after museum and were happy to have a double treat 🙂

Why Should you Visit?

Because it’s unique. It not only enchants the kids but teaches them about the world, its people, its culture, its customs, its diversity and its advancement. The museum is a perfect place where children can learn about the world while doing what they love to do.

Essentials

The Location

The museum is housed in the CBT building named Nehru House. The staircase near to the ticket counter leads up to a lobby of Dolls Museum.

Address: Children’s Book Trust (CBT), Nehru House (a couple of steps from ITO Crossing), 4 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi

How to Reach

The museum is located near ITO crossing close to Ram Charan Agarwal Chowk. ITO is well-connected to other parts of Delhi.

Delhi Metro is the most convenient way to reach the museum. You can hire an auto rickshaw or a cab. Ola and Uber are available in Delhi. Alternatively, you can take a local bus to reach the museum. DTC buses run from diverse points within the city.

If you are coming in your car, park it somewhere else and walk up to the museum. Parking is an issue as they don’t have dedicated parking.

Nearest Metro Station/Bus Stop: ITO (Violet line)

Nearest Railway Station: Tilak Bridge

Entrance fees

The ticket prices are surprisingly low for such a unique experience.

Children up to the age of 12: INR 10; Adults: INR 25

School children in groups of 20 and more are charged discounted price of INR 5.

*Plus service tax as applicable.

Opening Days and Timings

The timings are from 10 am to 6 pm. The last entry is allowed till 5:30 pm.

The museum operates from Tuesday to Sunday. Monday is the weekly off. It is closed on National Holidays.

Contact for More Information

+91 11 2331 6970

Photography/Video

Photography and video making is prohibited inside the museum. Prior written permission needs to be solicited from the authorities at CBT.

Mobile Phones are allowed inside the premises but you are not permitted to click the pictures with your mobile phones.

Time required/Duration of Visit

It takes 1 – 2 hours to explore the entire museum with leisure.

Food and drinks are not allowed inside the museum. There’s no cafe inside. Drinking water and washroom facility are available inside the museum.

Pro tip: Satisfy your hunger pangs at Udupi Cafe just next to the Shankar’s International Dolls Museum. The masala dosa and idlis are amazing here. Actually, too good for the price.

Tourist Attractions Near to the Dolls Museum

There are a plethora of other famous plus lesser visited attractions in close proximity to the Dolls Museum if you are keen to explore more of Delhi. The list includes India Gate, National Zoological Park or Chidiya Ghar (Delhi Zoo), Purana Qila (Old Fort), Khooni Darwaza, Feroz Shah Kotla, Khair-ul-Manazil Mosque, National Museum, and National Science Center.

If you happen to visit the museum on Sunday, add Daryaganj Sunday Book Market to your itinerary.

Shankars International Dolls Museum in Delhi
Shankars International Dolls Museum in Delhi Capital of India

Have you ever visited Shankar’s International Dolls Museum? If not, are you planning to visit it sometime soon? Whether you live in Delhi or are traveling to Delhi, Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is a must visit.

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