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Indonesian Rag Dolls – Male & Female




Cultural notes


Sari is one of the most common outfits used by the women of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The exact origin of the sari is not known but researchers have successfully shown the existence of sari during the Indus Valley civilization.

Sari is the national dress for the women of India. A sari is basically a long strip of cloth and the length of the sari varies from four to nine meters. There are a number of different styles in which you can wear a sari and in the most common style, you need to wrap the sari around your waist and you are then required to drape the other end over the shoulder baring the midriff. The petticoat and the blouse are also used with a sari. The blouse forms the upper garment while the sari is worn over the top of the petticoat. The blouse has short sleeves, low neck and it can be backless or of a halter neck style. A blouse is also known as a choli.


bindi is a colored dot worn on the centre of the forehead, commonly by Hindu and Jain women. A similar marking is also worn by babies and children in China and, like in South and Southeast Asia, represents the opening of the third eye.

Bindis are popular outside the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as well. They are sometimes worn purely for decorative purpose or style statement without any religious or cultural affiliation. The appropriateness of such uses has been disputed.

Batik Shirt

Batik are patterns fabrics, created using the technique of dye-resistance. While samples have been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa from past centuries, none have developed batik to its present day art form as the highly developed intricate batik found on the island of Java in Indonesia.


sarong is a large tube or length of fabric, often wrapped around the waist, worn in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, and on many Pacific islands. The fabric often has woven plaid or checkered patterns, or may be brightly colored by means of batik or ikat dyeing. Many modern sarongs have printed designs, often depicting animals or plants.


Suggested activities

Books/ Story time:

  • Read Sasha visits Bali: Bali is an Indonesian island just south of the Equator. It is a land of terraced paddy fields, live volcanoes, sandy beaches and tropical forests. It has a unique culture, drawing strands from Bali’s Hindu present and animist past, that is expressed in daily life through religious ceremonies and dance. Join Sasha as she visits this unique and exciting city.
  • Read Sadri returns to Bali:  Sadri Returns to Bali is set during the exhilarating Galungan festival of the fun-loving Balinese people. It is told through the eyes of a former child dancer, Sadri, who returns to his previous home on his annual visit to join the celebrations. The festival marks the victory of dharma (order) over adharma (disorder). It is celebrated by Balinese Hindus who believe that during these ten days of prayers, offerings, and joyful fasting, their revered ancestors return to their former homes to be entertained and welcomed.

Group/ Circle Time: 

  • Share the dolls with the children, discuss the differences and similarities between the dolls and us e.g. clothing. Discuss the clothing and its history. Show the children how to tie a sari, giving children an opportunity to wear the sari
  • Read through ‘The Clothes we Wear’, borrowing items of clothing to reflect those discussed in the book. Discuss the differences in the clothing, touching on the climate in each country, materials, cultural beliefs etc. Discuss children’s favourite items of clothing and why this is their favourite.

Music and Movement:

  • Introduce some traditional Indonesian instruments in to your music corner/ program
  • The Angklung is a unique Indonesian instrument made from bamboo tubes and suspended from a bamboo frame. Each of the tubes are calved to have a resonant pitch and are tuned to octaves. The Anklung is placed on a table and the tubes are shaken to create sounds. Often a number of musicians will play the instrument together, each person only playing one or two notes but together creating a tune.

Dramatic Play: 

  • Ensure your doll corner always has a range of different dolls that represent a variety of cultures. This ensures that children have a sense of belonging within the environment.
  • Include some fabric and materials with your dolls, so children can create their own clothing or wrap the material around the dolls like a sari

External Links

  • Watch a young child play Happy Birthday on the Angklung

Related items in our catalogue

Cultural Dolls 

Other items

The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.