The Antiquity of Dhokra Craft
An eternal art originating from the heart of West Bengal casted in the absoluteness of metal. Dhokra Art is a non-ferrous metal casting traditionally practiced by the Dhokra Damar tribes– metalsmiths of Bengal. In fact one of the oldest found lost wax casting artefact is that of a dancing girl from Mohenjo Daro. The art form has not only withstood the test of time but has also spread across India with the movement of tribes. Gadwas, Gonds and Dhurwas in Chattisgarh are some of the major tribes that practice Dhokra art in present day with lost wax technique or hollow casting.
It involves patterning a clay core intricately with wax ribbons and then coating it carefully with a mix of clay and hay. The wax is subsequently melted off, and the cavity formed is filled with molten metal – an alloy of copper and tin. With its solidification the beauty of craftsmen creation is revealed as he breaks open the outer clay shell. These processes involved could take an artisan over a month or two in creation of a single piece. Inspiration for these castings are drawn from the abundance of the environment, be it the village ghotul, myriad of trees, birds and animals, mythology or rituals and few other themes like measuring bowls, religious deities and lamps, given the limited exposure of the tribes, design inspirations are confined to their private lives and surroundings.
It is unfortunate that this traditional art form has been on a decline due to the increasing cost of raw material which makes the product too expensive to draw enough buyers, discouraging the artisans from creating these masterpieces. Another factor which contributes to this steady fall is the lack of knowledge and inspiration for new designs as well as the inability to adapt to the modern market. However, a considerable demand for the products has been observed in international markets specially in cities like London, Paris and Milan. This has driven the government to encourage the production of Dhokra artifacts and assist in its marketing at both national and international level. TRIFED through its network of outlets and e-marketplace under the name of Tribes India is progressively working towards preserving this beautiful artwork and making it available to the people