Dhokra, A craft of ancient origin ; is the name given to the folk form of lost wax metal casting practiced in the tribal pockets of
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Process Stages :
(I) Making of the core in fine sand and clay.
(II) Making an armature with wax threads and strips that depicts the image.
(III) Encasing it with a clay mould with vents and inlet.
(IV) Pouring molten brass and casting.
(V) Removing the casts.
(VI) Finishing and polishing with sandpaper.
In Bastar, the Gharuas use wax for metal casting the idols ; they install them in the
Devgudi ;Village Shrine, of a deity under the trees.
Cast forms of Dhokra has three variations.
Two of them have only metal content and these are usually flat motifs or thin- walled hollow containers or figurines without a clay core.
The third one includes object of larger volume such as animals and lamp stands, where a clay core is retained inside a thin layer of metals as an economic measure.
In some cases, when the outer layer is a lattice, then thin core is mechanically
removed in the finishing stage.
Rice husk is added to the core to reduce its weight.
The decorative parts of the object are separately added with wax and
joined together with chaar, a hot iron rod.
Bamboo sticks are inserted to create channels for molten metal to enter the wax filled cavity.
The cast products are cooled and the shell is broken carefully to extract the metal objects, which are cleaned with a wire brush and further polished with sandpaper.
In Ektal, Raigarh district, the Jhara artisans practice metal casting in brass by mixing resin
and beeswax in different ratios.
In Sarguja, the Malar or blacksmith community make two types of metal images
– solid and hollow ;
instead of wax, they use resin called Dhuvan, to make the armature of human figures and idols.
The Bharewa (one who fills) of Betul belong to the first category in which objects are made by pouring or filling molten metal into the mould.
Apart from utensils, they traditionally make harnesses for house and
ornaments for cattle, lamps and bird figures.
Agriculture is carried on to supplement the minor income that this craft brings in.
An important social ritual of gifting an ornamental oil wick lamp to the bride by her family resulted in diverse forms of the morchimni (peacock- shaped) lamps.
(unfortunately, I couldn’t get picture of these lamps 🙁 )
The demand for these articles has diminished greatly as tribal markets are today filled with alternative material, which are cheaper at price.
The Gharua or Dhokra Kamar tribes are traditionally involved
with the craft of metal sculpture in West Bengal.
In earlier times, this tribe led a nomadic life, repairing old or broken utensils.
Dhokra tribes from Bankura region are mainly involved in making
idols of deities, birds and animals.
The unique feature of the dhokra casting in Bengal and Bihar is that the crucible for melting the metal is attached to the mould and both are fixed together.
A thick strand of wax protrudes at the highest point of the wax model and provides a future passage for molten metal.
One of the special characteristic of dhokra casting is that only one cast can be made from a mould that is completely broken after the casting is over.
Thus, the quality and finishing of the product depends totally upon the initial work done on the clay and wax dummy of the desired product.
In recent times, however, the nomadic tribe of metal casters have settled down.
The craftsmen have become aware of the importance and demand of their craft
in the national and international market.
Dhokra, metal casting done by the lost wax process, is an ancestral craft practiced by the Chitraghasi and Ghasi tribes.
The craftsmen in Odisha prepare wax threads with the help of a three – part tool called
‘Nahalo, Janta and Choki’
The Dhokra craftsmen belong to the Woj community and make idols of local deities – Janghubhai, Bheemdev and Persiphen.
There are around 60 families involved in this hereditary craft in five villages around Adilabad.
Craftsmen in Dhenkanal belong to the Ghontara, a community which is also found
in other districts of Odisha.
They cast Dhokra for household needs, ornaments and ritual objects.
They sell their objects in local weekly market.
There are various tools used in this ancient art form :
* Nahato, Janta, Choki – tools for making wax threads
* Hatudi – hammer
* Sandasi – forceps
* Birsa – weighing scales
* Hotta – beater
* Mothua – polished wooden plank
* Churi – knives
* Sulga – model making tools
* Butt – wire bruse
* Reti – iron files
* Dhukuna/ Markhu – blower
* Martul – wooden hammer
* Tangriya – axe
* Kanthi – tools to make patterns on wax
* Tatal – welding instrument
* Chimita – tongs
* Dhukini – blow pipe
* Batti – furnace
* Hatta – to make wax coils
* Chakar Pitha – to level wax
* Sancha – mould
* Moond kati – finishing tool
* Sonsi – perforated circular plates
* Pida – to collect wax from mould
* Cheeni – chisel head
* Chaar – hot iron rod
During my last visit to Shantiniketan, I got these pictures from the artisans
sitting there and selling their Dhokra.