Indian Traditional Heritage Art - Dhokra Art


Indian heritage art has been defined as traditional art practiced by tribal minority groups across India. Indian art has always held a position of prominence amongst the mesmerizing art creations in the world, and is often referred to as 'the cradle of civilization.


India is a land of diversity, and its culture is reflected in its magnificent historical monuments. This is one of the prime reasons people from all over the world are eager to explore Indian culture and history. They want to go beyond just knowing about Indian heritage and learn more about it.


People want to actually visit these monuments and explore their history, learn more about their architecture and appreciate the creativity that went behind their construction. You sure don't want to miss out on this opportunity. One of the handmade art forms that we are exploring here is Dhokra Art.




What is Dhokra Art?


Dhokra is a type of handmade artwork that originated in India. It is made using the lost wax method and comprises mainly copper and brass. Dhokra art is renowned for its intricate designs.


The lost-wax process of metal casting is one of the oldest techniques for creating metal objects. Many ancient cultures used this process from as early as 4000 B.C. The process was also known to be used among the Romans and some of their early successors.


Many ancient cultures had apprenticeships that would teach new metal workers the practice in exchange for labor out to the teacher. In the lost wax technique of metal casting, the fine wax model is covered with a clay shell. The wax is melted out and burned away from the mold, leaving a cavity that can be filled with molten metal. It is one of the simplest and most ancient techniques used by mankind to shape metal.


History of Dhokra Art


The history of Dhokra art is 4000 years old. The 'Dancing Girl Statue,' found in Mohenjdaro, is one of the finest examples of the lost-wax artifacts. The statue, found during excavations at Mohenjo-Daro, a large Indus Valley urban settlement that dates from approximately 2600-1900 BCE, is estimated to be 2500 years old. Dancing Girl Statue stands 6.3 inches high, and is dressed in a flounced skirt (purlun), and armlets; it wears a necklace and has elaborate hair styled into two 'braids' which fall onto her shoulders.





The word Dhokra originates from the tribes of dokra, and the people of dokra tribes such as Bastar, Chhattisgarh are famous for their metalwork. Dhokra is also derived from 'dhokna,' meaning "to cast."


The Dhokra art originates from West Bengal, specifically in Bankura, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Dariapur. The craft evolved and was practiced in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Telangana, and Rajasthan. Now, this art has spread all over the world.


Cultural Significance of Dhokra Art


Dhokra is a fine art that is handed down from generation to generation in India. It has a rich history in art and dates back to ancient times. Dhokra is one of the most famous techniques of art sculpting.


Dhokra Art is popular in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. Now, art is commonly practiced all over India.





Tribal elements from a cultural standpoint influence Dhokra art. Animal, mythological, jewelry, ornaments, and religious imagery are Dhokra art crafts. We discovered rich traditional art and crafts of Dhokra in the east Indian state of Bastar, which attracts art enthusiasts all over the globe.


These crafts are made in a unique style by the artisans, adding their worth and beauty. With the lack of high profile equipment during the ancient times, the design of this art was strictly handmade. Every family has a Dhokra piece of art as a show of pride.




Women are also becoming more interested in Dhokra jewelry. They coordinate it with their attire and own trends. Also famous are ornamental platters, containers, vases, photo frames, tea light candle holders, wall hangings, silverware, and sculptures.


Dhokra is a cast-metal alloy art usually produced in the Indian subcontinent. It is permanent, pure, and brilliant in color; does not crack upon cooling; does not shatter, and is non-corrosive. The Dhokra objects are small and are made to be used as pendants or as parts of jewelry, tools, or decorative pieces.


The objects are small, owing to the intricate process they have to pass through, including heating and cooling. Dhokra art has thousands of years of history across the Indian subcontinent and beyond. We can say that Dhokra art reflects the tribal heritage, tribal themes, and cultural values.


Symbolism and Uniqueness of Dhokra Art


There's a unique symbol behind each art piece. Dhokra artists mostly create figures of elephants, horses, owls, and tortoises.




The elephant is a symbol of wisdom, and the owl symbolizes prosperity and death. At the same time, tortoises symbolize femininity and horse motion. In Hindu religious mythology, each iconic figure has a story and purpose. It is believed that the Hindu god Lord Vishnu is holding the world on his back. And the tortoise is the avatar of Lord Vishny; Dhokra artists create that.




The famous Dhokra crafts include horses, owls, elephants, religious tales, measuring bowls, peacocks, lambs, and idols. Every artifact has a religious tale behind it.


Dhokra art is one-of-a-kind since each item is delicately crafted, and no two Dhokra artworks are the same. The themes of the Dhokra art are based on religious ideas, myths, traditions, and rituals. An amazing fact about the Dhokra pattern is that they have no joints, and no two pieces are alike.


No one can copy Dhokra. Every piece is unique, as each artisan can create in his special way. With thin hands, legs and a slender body, Dhokra pieces look different..". (The Hindu.com)

Fascinating Process of Making Dhokra Art


Dhokra art has been a popular craft in India for centuries, and it is often used to create items that help enhance the atmosphere and decor of interior spaces. Despite their best efforts to spread the word, it is much more popular than most people realize. And most of the work in this art form is handmade with very little use of tools. Check out the following traditional method that is used in making this unique art.





1. Creating the Clay Moulds


The clay moulds are designed first to make a Dhokra craft. The females collect soil from the bed of a field, which is also called 'Kalli Matti.' The soil is then refined and mixed with rice husks. Appropriate proportions of rice husk should be added to the soil to prevent breakage when drying the soil.





The mixture is used to make the moulds. The basic model of the craft is made up of a mixture of clay and rusk. After that, the clay moulds are dried in the sun for a day.

For the final good shape of the moulds or craft, riverside soil mixed with dung and water is used. A layer of riverside soil is coated over the art, which also allows the wax to melt out of the cast. It is dried for one more day and then filled with sandpaper to achieve the final shape


2. Preparing Beeswax Strands


Beeswax is a handy material that is used to give a fine texture. Females prepare beeswax strands at home. They crushed an ingredient known as 'Dhoop', into powder form, as it acts as a charcoal dust ingredient.

The powder is then transferred to the heated vessel, and coal tar is added to the mixture. The candle wax is added to the mixture because it is easy to break and thicken.






The melted wax is filtered into the water-filled tank using a cotton cloth. It takes the shape of a sheet. After that, the wax dough is prepared to make wax strands.


Wax strands are made using a hand-crafted instrument known as Thassa, which extracts thin strands from the hand-pressed tool Phichki Pharni. Thin wax sheets or threads are wrapped around the craft to produce beautiful patterns.


3. Covering the Mould


Artists also make distinct designs, patterns, and ornaments using wax strands. The primary model is then linked to these designs. Once again, a coating of river mud is applied to the model to give it extra strength. The powdered charcoal coating is also applied to the model to cover the exterior, which gives the model more strength.

Wax ducts are created over the dry layer, allowing the wax to drain and the molten metal to take over the hollow.






A final coating of termite soil is applied to the model, which helps to harden the structure during burning. The final layer is kept for drying


4. Baking the Module


The final model is then made wet with liquid mud, and it is ready for casting and firing. The model is baked in a furnace at a temperature of approximately 110 degrees Celsius.

When the model turns red in the furnace, it is removed. There's a fine cavity inside the model, and it is filled with molten metal.






5.Pouring the Metal


Brass scraps are gathered and measured on the weighing scale before the model is filled with molten metal.


The brass straps are put in another furnace and then melted at a high temperature.

Bell metals in their liquid form attain their optimal temperature when they produce green or blue flames. At that point, it is removed from the furnace, and molten metal is poured inside the final model. The module is left cool for a day or two.





6.The Final Product


After the cooling process, the outer model is broken with a hammer or wooden mallet. When the external module is broken, the final product is out. The final craft is then polished, rubbed, cleaned, and modified with the help of different tools.


The procedure of making the Dhokra craft is challenging and time consuming. One module takes 9 days to complete. Only after the artist has acquired the technique of working with clay and metal can the final piece be made flawlessly. It requires years of practice. But, Dhokra art is one of the most attractive and unique arts globally.





Different Styles Of Dhokra Art


Tribal people still practice the traditional Dhokra art in several parts of India. The famous regions are Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gond, Abhuj Maria, Darda Maria, Bison Horn Maria, Munia Doria, Dhruva, Bhatra, and Halba tribes.


Jharkhand

The Pundi village of Jharkhand is famous for making traditional Dhokra artifacts. They mostly create decorative animal and bird motifs. The idols of gods are the most famous art crafts of this region. Moreover, Dhokra artisans make miniature jewelry things with incredible and intricate craftsmanship.


Chhattisgarh

One of the most famous artworks of Chhattisgarh is Dhokra art. The Ghadwa tribe of Chhattisgarh is famous for making bell metal items. Dhokra artists are primarily responsible for creating Hindu gods, goddesses, and sacred cow objects. It is inspired by tribal themes of animals, mythical creatures, human creatures, natural shapes, etc.


Bengal

Dhokra art flourished in Bengal. Bengal Brassware is famous nationally and internationally. The famous artifacts of Bengal are Krishnanagar Clay Dolls, Bankura horses, and elephants. There's also a popular demand for Hindu gods and goddesses such as Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Durga, and Saraswati.


This art form has been patronized for centuries as a medium for sculptural art because of its smooth texture, graceful curves and figures, notable color variety, and intrinsic value.

Each artifact of Dhokra is unique, beautiful, attractive, and diverse. Both men and women participate in the creation of Dhokra artifacts. Dhokra art is in demand, because of its simplicity, folk motifs, and uniqueness.


Dhokra art is used in home decoration, because of its long-lasting activity. It is used worldwide for its elegant looks. One can find beautiful dolls and figures of animals, deities, and others which are useful in enhancing the ambiance of home or office.

This article is only meant to be a brief introduction to this unique art form; I hope that it has served as a pleasant introduction to people who have never heard of it before and given them a new appreciation for this art form.


Traditional art is an evergreen topic and of course, what makes it more enthralling is its rich and fascinating history which not only brings you its past but also tells a lot about ancient times. We shall talk and explore more about Dhokra art in future posts, which will pique your curiosity.


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