Many people in the west and also in India have this strange misconception that Dokra craft refers to ornate tribal jewelry made by the tribals in the backward regions of India. In truth Dokra craft refers to all those metal artifacts made with the help of lost wax technique manufactured by the Dokra kamars of Bengal and elsewhere.
What is Dokra craft?
In France this technique of lost wax method is referred to as cire perdue and it is also hailed as the oldest type of casting metal in the world. So in a way, you can trace back the roots of the Dhokra art to the days of the Mohenjodaro craftsmen in Indus valley civilization some 4500 years back.
The Dokra craftsmen mainly produce figures and figurines of Gods and Goddesses, ritual deities like lord Shiva, Durga or Parvati, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Narayan, Kartik, Ganesh, lord Brahma and Vishnu, religious birds and animals like owl, swan, peacock, mouse, lion and various types of objects that are required for rituals such as pancho pradeep, dhunuchi etc.
These Dokra artists also prepare objects of home décor and artifacts such as chariots, lamps, lampshades, lamp holders, horse drawn carriages, carts drawn by ox, decorative pieces, Santhali ornaments like necklets, trinkets, anklets, bracelets etc. The distinctive appearance of Dokra craft is due to its antique and stark finish and rustic look – both of which are widely coveted in international art markets and in domestic markets.
These Dokra craftsmen also manufacture chains, exquisite tribal jewelry with tribal motifs sporting ethnic Indian patterns and designs, various different types and symbols of ethnic religion, rites, rituals and folklore.
Some of the regions in Bengal which are famed for Dokra/Dhokra metal craft are Burdwan, Midnapore, Birbhum, Purulia and Bankura. There are also tribal dominated pockets in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Raigarh and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh in central India – the quintessential mineral rich vast tracts of India where these Dokra artisans and tribes are scattered.
The main hallmark of Dokra craft is enchanting folk motif, primitive simplicity, a rustic beauty and imaginative designs and patterns. And yet these Dokra craftsmen have never received any formal training in any art institution. They rely completely on their instinctive and inborn creative and innovative senses that they have cultivated over some 4500 years. Their aesthetic senses and skill have undergone a lot of evolution over these long years.