The International Dolls Museum was set up by renowned political cartoonist, K. Shankar Pillai, and has one of the largest collections of costume dolls anywhere in the world. Popularly known as Shankar's International Dolls Museum, it is a unique museum, located in the Children's Book Trust building, on the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi. The International Dolls Museum has a collection of about 6,500 dolls collected from over 85 countries, which can lure anyone to this special museum. One third of the dolls in the International Dolls Museum are collected from different parts of India, whereas the rest comes from across the world.
The dolls in the International Dolls Museum are all colorfully dressed in beautiful, bright-colored and dazzling costumes, which represent the region or the country that they belong to. This makes the museum a wonderful ground of cultural exchange. These dolls not only tells us about the costumes of the particular area they belong to but also highlights the typical facial features, accessories and lifestyles of the people in different parts of the world. Moreover, the dolls in this museum also teach us about the climate, folklore and mythologies of the various countries.
In addition, you can also see the process of making these dolls at the workshop and buy some of them from the designing center in the Doll Museum. The International Dolls Museum is divided into two equal halves and the two sections have over 160 glass cases, 1000 ft. long, mounted on the walls. One section of the museum has exhibits from the European countries, the U.K., the U.S.A, Australia, New Zealand, and Commonwealth of Independent States, whereas the other sections has exhibits from Asian countries, the Middle East, Africa and India.
Moreover, you can also see the special display section, which has collection of over 150 kinds of authentic Indian costume dolls made at the Dolls Workshop attached to the Dolls Museum in New Delhi. One can buy dolls from here to exchange as gifts. These dolls are also bought by collectors and other museums in India and abroad.
The idea behind the dolls museum came from the receipt of a doll as a gift, which Shankar Pillai received from the Hungarian Ambassador in the early fifties. He liked the doll so much that he began collecting costume dolls whenever he went abroad. Soon he had a collection of around 500 dolls which he decided to exhibit in various places in India. But due to frequent packing and unpacking, the dolls damaging. To solve this problem, Shankar raised this issue to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi at an exhibition held in Delhi. It was than decided, as per the suggestions of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, to build a permanent museum for the dolls in Delhi. The International Dolls Museum was inugurated in 1965 by the then President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who appropriately named the building, 'Nehru House' after the late Prime Minister.
The International Dolls Museum started with a thousand dolls, and another five thousand were added between 1965 and 1987. Currently, the number of dolls has reached to almost 6,500 from over eighty-five countries, giving it a truly international character. The International Dolls Museum opens everyday between 10 am and 6 pm, except Mondays. The Dolls Museum has always been a favorite places of visit for tourits visiting Delhi.