The Unique Handicrafts Of India- Dhokra Art

The Unique Handicrafts Of India- Dhokra Art

Amongst one of the arts of our culturally rich country, this handicraft includes wax casting technique with metallurgical skills to create unique artifacts.

Let’s learn more details about this unique handicraft. We will understand:

  • What is Dhokra?
  • Origin of Dhokra
  • The process of making Dhokra handicrafts
  • What is Dhokra made up of?
  • How to take care of Dhokra artifacts?
  • Amazing facts about Dhokra

What is Dhokra?

Dhokra, also known as Dokra, is non-ferrous metal casting using the lost – wax casting technique. The method is also known as ‘Cire Perdue’ in French. The process used for lost- casting is hollow casting that uses clay core to create mould. The figurines are crafted using brass and copper alloys.

Handcrafted Dhokra Pendant Set

Origin of Dhokra:

This technique of metal casting has been used in India for 4000 years. The earliest known Dhokra artifact is a dancing girl from Mohenjo-Daro.
It is named after the tribe -‘ Dhokra Damar tribe’, the main traditional metalsmiths of West Bengal and Odisha. This art of Dhokra extends to Central and Eastern parts of India, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkand, Kerala, and hence now found all over India.

The Process: 

The Dhokra is a long-drawn process and it may take even a month or two to complete a piece.

  • Developing a clay core: The first step involves preparing the basic shape of the artifact by clay, a mixture of mud and cow dung. This mould is dried in sun. 
  • Wax layering: The second step involves covering the basic structure with wax. Pure beeswax is used to form the wax strings. Wax is drawn in the form of thin wires with the help of small metal coins with holes in them, known as ‘Sikke’. The coins with different sizes of holes help in drawing different diameters of wax wires. These coins are fitted in the nozzle of ‘Pichkari’ to form wax strings of desired diameters. These wax threads are wound uniformly on clay dried mould. These are then allowed to dry in the sun. The beeswax wax is malleable and makes it easies to make designs. The finer details of the design are carved on the wax. Thereafter, it is covered with a layer of clay, made by mixing anthill soil and sand. The clay is applied on wax and pressed to get imprints of design on to the clay. Vents/channels are created in clay for the wax to melt through it.
  • Metal moulding: Clay moulds are heated in a furnace to melt the wax. The metal alloy is prepared by heating the brass and copper scraps up to 400 degrees Celsius for 2-3 hrs. The molten metal is poured into the cavity to fill the mould and it hardens between the surface of the core and outer clay surface taking the shape of wax. It is set aside for 10-15 mins and then dipped in water to cool down. The outer layer of clay is hammered and chipped off to obtain the final product. Finally, the products are cleaned and polished using a brush and files. 

What is Dhokra made of?

Dhokra figurines are fashioned from bronze and copper-based alloys. Dhokra artifacts are mostly human and animal figurines. Traditionally tribe is known to make measuring bowls, deities figures, and lamps. The technique has now evolved into making jewelry as well. The price of the artifacts depends on the amount of brass used.

How to take care of Dhokra artifacts?

Dhokra artifacts should be dusted with a dry soft cloth. The figurines and jewelry can also be cleaned with a soft-bristled brush.

Amazing facts about Dhokra:

  • This technique of metal casting is over 4000 years old. 
  • As these artifacts are created by creating moulds, no two pieces can be the same.
  • These artifacts do not have any joint in them.

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