Dhokra (Odia: ଡୋକରା, Bengali: ডোকরা) derives its name from the Dhokra Damar tribe who are the traditional metal smiths of West Bengal. Dhokra Damar, a tribe native to West Bengal have been the finest metal-casters in India since ancient times. They used to carve on wax to make ‘Bell Metal’ sculptures. . Their technique of lost wax or “cire perdue” casting is named after their tribe, hence Dhokra metal casting. While the craft is predominant in Bengal, states such as Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh too are centers of the craft. It's earliest known lost wax artefact is the dancing girl of Mohenjo-Daro. The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. A few hundred years ago the Dhokras of Central and Eastern India traveled to southern India as far as Kerala and to north as far as Rajasthan and hence are now found all over India.
The Dhokra sculpture has a gravity of emotional & spiritual value, with forms almost verbal, narrating stories that its creator intended to. Their detailed depictions of Gods and Goddesses, intricate lamps, bells and ornaments were greatly revered. In India, the ancient scholarly work ‘Shilpshastra’ goes into the detail of metal working with alloys and casting of wide range of utilities from daily use items, sacred artworks and architectural products. Here, metal work largely derives its inspiration from religion. Before any artisan sits to make the figure, he prays for guidance from Tvastram (son of Lord Vishwakarma), said to be an expert in metal alloys.
In Odisha, this is a typical tribal craft in bronze with its mesh like features giving it a distinctive beauty. The tribal families of Sadeibareni, a village near Dhenkanal town produces this very unusual craft. There are many types of handicrafts in the state of Odisha and generally these people are very artistic. The Sun temple at Konark is a standing testimony to this. In the bastar district of Chhattisgarh, Dhokra work is done by a metal- working caste called Kaser (bronze) and Ghadwa (pot-maker). They are regarded as artists first and then metal workers as what they do involves a creative mind not just giving a material shape.
The traditional themes of these cast metal sculptures include images of Hindu Or 'tribal' gods and goddesses, bowls, figures of people or deities riding elephants, musicians, horse and rider figures, elephants, cattle, and other figures of people, animals, and birds.
Now, let’s move to the process, how this eye catching and magnificent traditional craft is created. There are two main processes of lost wax casting: solid casting and hollow casting. Solid casting does not use a clay core but instead a solid piece of wax to create the mould; hollow casting is the more traditional method and uses the clay core. A clay core is made, slightly smaller than the final intended size of the artefact. First the clay core is designed and then is layered by wax, resin and nut oil. Wax is then carved and every fine detail is given again this is covered by clay it works as a mould for metal art piece. Clay is then cooked and wax comes out from the drain ducts. Molten metal (that is mainly brass and bronze scraps) is poured inside the mould. After the metal has taken shape and as cooled down, outer clay layer is chipped off. Metal art piece is then polished and finalized. You can check out a detailed information about the process in http://arthcrafts.blogspot.in/ & the video which have been shared below.
We have to join hands to preserve this types of ancient crafts forms & techniques which shows how rich our country India is in Culture & Crafts. We should pass this information from generations to generations to keep this legacy alive.