Dokra Craft: An Art Form That Needs To Be Kept Alive

By Udit Garg:

Dhokra Damar, a tribe native to West Bengal have been the finest metal-casters in India since ancient times. While the craft is predominant in Bengal, states such as Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh too are centres of the craft. Dokra craft is over 4000-years-old art and its earliest signs were seen in the sculpture of a dancing girl found in the ruins of Mohenjadaro. Dokra artists use a very interesting method to cast metal into the craft, a technique that is known as ‘Cire Perdue’. Cire Perdue is further distinguished into two categories: ‘Solid-casting’ predominant in West-Bengal and ‘Hollow-casting’ predominant in the Central and Eastern states of India. The craft mainly involves creating sculptures of owls, horses, elephants, peacocks, religious images, measuring bowls and lamp caskets etc.

The procedure of traditional Cire Perdue includes moulding a rough clay core sculpture of the required craft. After the core, a layer of molten wax is sculptured over clay and finishing touches are given to it so that the wax layer exactly replicates the required final metal sculpture. Following this, another layer of clay is covered over the wax layer which helps to fill all the cavities in the wax layer. After that, the final closure is baked and molten metal is put inside the holes between the two layers of clay. Because of the heat, the wax melts away and the molten metal takes its shape inside the cavities created from the melting away of wax. After that, the closure is kept to cool down and then the top and inner layer of clay is chiselled away. The last and final step includes polishing and finishing of the metal sculpture. The difference between ‘solid-casting’ and ‘hollow-casting’ is that the core used is of wax and clay respectively.

It is believed that Dokra Kamars, also known as Dokra artists or metal-moulders in Bengal; need to meditate for several hours till the image of the sculpture required is vividly ingrained in their mind. The utterance “Dokra Kamars” has a very deep meaning in Bengali language. In Bengali, ‘Dokra’ is a word of contempt towards poor and low-classed people while ‘Kamars’ mean Metal Casters. Dokra art may be scattered all over India but the number of artisans working on it is diminishing with time. A recent study by the Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation of India observes that there are only 57 families in the country who are actively participating in the contribution of Dokra art. It also states that Bengal has the highest number of active artisans in India working on the art followed by Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

The statistics may paint a dim future for the Dokra craft but all hope isn’t lost yet. A recent publication of the HHECI observes that there has been a considerable increase in the demand of Dokra Art in both the domestic and International market. The Indian government too has shown an improved initiative to revive Dokra Art in the country, organizing fairs and funding artisans. Additionally, technology is playing a huge part in the revival of Dokra craft as many online portals are now showing keen interest in promoting crafts made by these rural artisans. Hopefully happy times lie ahead for Dokra crafts and artisans can look forward to a bright future.

CONTEST ALERT!

Have a period experience that really stood out for you? Share your story in 150 words or more and get featured on our homepage!

Participate now!

Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below