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Armenian Dolls – at the Delhi Dolls Museum

On April 16 the Armenian Cultural Center of Delhi initiated a ceremony to hand over Armenian dolls to the authorities of the International Dolls Museum, New Delhi. Armen Martirosyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Armenia to India also attended the event.

The representatives of the Armenian community of New Delhi – cardiologist Gayane Movsisyan, honored teacher Susanna Grigoryan, orientalist Naira Mkrtchyan and Indologist Mane Mkrtchyan said that the idea of donating Armenian dolls came a few months before as they organized children’s visit to the Museum and found no Armenian doll among thousands.

N. Mkrtchyan and S. Grigoryan told the audience about Armenian costumes, dolls, and Armenian national symbols, as well as about the Gallery of Dolls in Yerevan..

The International Dolls Museum is a huge collection of dolls in Delhi, which was set up in 1965 by K. Shankar Pillai (1902–1989), a political cartoonist (he was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award by Government of India). He also founded the first Children’s Book Trust in 1957. 

A gift of a doll from a Hungarian diplomat gave Shankar the idea of collecting dolls from countries he visited. Several embassies and diplomatic missions, visiting dignitaries like Madame Tito, Queen Frederika of Greece, the Queen of Thailand, the sister of Shah of Iran, the wives of Presidents of Mexico and Indonesia and many others gifted dolls representing their respective nations. 

At the inauguration time the number of dolls was only 500, in 1987 it rose to 5,000, a vast majority coming as gifts. Now there are 7000 exhibits from almost 85 countries. The museum has 1 million 600 thousand visitors a year.

The dolls of Dolls Museum even were awarded first prize namely «Golden Peacock Feather» at the Dolls Biennale that was held in Cracow, Poland in 1980. The major attractions of this museum are Kabuki and Samurai dolls from Japan, Maypole dance replica dolls of Hungary, UK’s Queen collection, Orchestra of women from Thailand, etc.

General Manager of the Museum, Yamuna Shankar, daughter of Pillai Shankar, said that her father had taken even her and her sister’s dolls to the Museum, saying “you have already played with them, now let others see them.” She accepted our dolls with love and gratitude, saying that they would have their place of honor in the exhibition, “We have thousands of dolls, but still, we want more. There is always a place for new dolls.

Every year this organization holds an International contest of drawings and essays (in English) for children from 5-16. The winners’ awards are a gold medal of the President of India for the best drawing/painting, the Shankar award for the best essay, 15 gold medals of Jawaharlal Nehru, 300 silver medals and 300 prizes.

Armenians who wish to participate in the contest can send their works to the following address:

Shankar’s International Children’s Competition

Nehru House, 4 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002, India

The works must reach New Delhi by 31 December, 2019.

Naira S. Mkrtchyan


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