About the craft
Dhokra or Dokra is a non-ferrous metal casting technique using the lost wax technique. This is one of the earliest known techniques of metal casting known for over 4500 years. The famous dancing girl of Mohen-jo-daro, found in excavations at Indus valley site is the earliest known Dhokra object.
The craft is practiced by aboriginal tribes, settled in mineral rich regions of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand and parts of Andhra Pradesh. The simplicity and purity of their lives is reflected in their creations that are inspired by their religious beliefs and community traditions and their daily lives. What makes Dhokra sculptures so alluring, is their primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful forms that almost speak and narrate their creators stories. The objects even though rustic in look and feel, have strong connect and appeal, such is the power of this craft. The objects crafted include elephants, horses, cows, owls and other animals and birds, images of Hindu and local Deities, Deities riding elephants, bowls, boxes, scenes and stories from their daily lives, utensils, jewellery and other objects for decorative use.
Tools and Materials
The materials required for making of Dhokra objects Scrap brass, black soil from fields, rice husk, bean leaves, fine clay, wax, resin and firewood from the forest, riverbed clay and a firing oven made by digging a hole in the ground. Such resources might seem very easy to procure, but in tribal hamlets, where such art pieces and jewellery is made, craftspersons are dependent on nature, and it is their hard labor, knowledge of complex technique and skill of processing metals that creates Dhokra objects.
Dhokra craft is created with Bell metal, brass or bronze. It is primarily made from scrap brass metal, collected from used articles. 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 more traditional and uses a clay core. Each object is cast from a unique mould. No two are similar. The first task is to develop a clay core which is roughly the shape and size of the cast image. The clay core is covered by a layer of wax composed of pure beeswax, resin from tree Damara orientalis and nut oil. The wax is then shaped and carved in all its finer details of design and decorations using beeswax noodle strips. It is then covered with layers of specially made clay which takes the negative form of the wax on the inside, thus forming a mould for the metal, that will be poured in it. Drain ducts are left for wax, which melts away when clay core inside if cooked. The wax is then replaced with molten metal, often brass scrap. The liquid metal poured in hardens between the core and the inner surface of the mould. The metal fills the mould and takes the same shape as the wax. The outer layer of clay is then chipped off and metal polished and finished as desired.
The following video shows the process and hard work required in crafting a dhokra sculpture.