What is a dhokra craft

Dhokra metal art

Metal art from West Bengal and Chattisgarh

The Dhokra live in the tribal belt of West India, which includes areas of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Various groups of blacksmiths who use the metal casting process in a lost form are grouped under this name.

Dhokra - first-class artisans from the blacksmith caste
The blacksmith's boxes generally have a very low social status, although they make a significant contribution to the village economy. After all, the blacksmiths are indispensable for the manufacture and repair of agricultural equipment. There are also many first-class artisans among the dhokras. They produce figures of gods, animal figures, bells and various decorative objects. The handicrafts are also called Dhokra after their creators.

Unique: casting in a lost form
For the metal casting process in lost form, a separate shape must be worked out for each object, which is smashed after firing. Therefore each figure is unique.

The figure is made of wax and clay ...
The metal artist begins by firing a cast furnace and preparing a mass of wax, resin and oil from which the object to be designed is formed. The artist visualizes the finished object in meditative calm before he gives the lump of wax its final shape. The finished wax model is purified with pancha-varna (the five colors).
Before the wax model is covered with a layer of clay, sensitive areas such as the transitions from the torso of a figure to the limbs must be reinforced with copper wire or nails. The reinforcements prevent thin parts from breaking and can be easily removed after the wax has melted. For larger pieces or where the shape requires it (such as vessels, bells, etc.), the artist models the wax around a solid core of clay. This wax model is then surrounded with a clay coat.

Then fired ... and the mold broke ...
In addition to the rough modeling, various cutting and application techniques are also used. For example, patterns are cut into the wax or wafer-thin wax threads are applied in stripes, curves or spirals. After the casting mold has hardened and dried, it is fired, whereby the wax inside melts.
The liquid wax is poured out through a small opening into which the molten metal is then poured.

Finally the work of art comes out
Once the metal has cooled and hardened, the mold can be broken. The work of art comes to the fore and is now given the final touch by filing off rough spots and then polishing it. Larger vessels are usually cast in several parts and only then put together.

An ancient metalworking process
Casting in molds consisting of two or more parts has been known since prehistoric times. Here, too, a core made of clay is used to cast hollow bodies. Cast seams are characteristic of the cast, but they are retouched afterwards. Other tribal groups such as the Kondh, Garhwa, Madia and Santhal, who live in parts of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, have mastered this art form.

Life-size figures
The metal casting in lost form is an ancient process that was already known at the time of the industrial culture. At the time of the medieval Chopla dynasty in southern India
The metal casting process reached its artistic climax with the creation of life-size figural bronzes. Today, Dhokra art is primarily associated with Bastar - the tribal heartland of Chattisgarh.

Regional peculiarity
Characteristic of the craftsmen from Bastar are the criss-cross layers of wax threads on the clay model to create a net-like figure to be cast
To give appearance. The cast images embody tribal and Hindu deities, riders on horseback or on elephants, figural representations of animals and people performing various activities.

References: 1. Barnard, Nicholas. (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus. 2. Bolon, Carol Radcliffe, and Amita Vohra Sarin. (1992). Bastar Brasses. Asian Art V (3, Summer): 35-51. 3. Cooper, Ilay, and John Gillow. (1996). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Thames and Hudson. 4. Sen, Prabhas. (1994). Crafts of West Bengal. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. and Middletown, NJ: Grantha Corporation. 5. Shah, Shampa. (Ed.). (1996). Tribal Arts and Crafts of Madhya Pradesh. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.