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Bell Metal / Dhokra Craft


 

Chhattisgarh Handicraft - Bell Metal / Dhokra CraftExquisite dull gold figurines and objects de art are crafted in the Bastar & Raigarh districts of Chhattisgarh out of bell metal, brass, and bronze. Traditionally the Ghadwas of Bastar and Jharas of Raigarh practice the Dhokra art with lost wax technique or hollow casting. It involves intricately patterning a clay core with wax ribbons and then coating it carefully with a mix of clay and hay. The was is subsequently melted off, and the cavity formed is filled with molten metal. When this solidifies, the craftsman reveals the beauty of his creation by cautiously breaking open the outer clay shell. Inspiration is available to the craftsperson from his abundant environment, be it the village ghotul, myriad  of trees, birds and animals, mythology or rituals. Utilitarian pieces such as combs, lamps, bowls and cups are created for daily use just as mythological icons like Bhuda-deo, Karma jhaar and Mata Jhula are crafted for their spiritual relevance. Each piece is characterized by intricate attention to detail, visible in the jewellery that bedecks the Maria-Muria heads, the elephant’s houda or even in a pot’s geometric lines. Nowhere else in the country does craft pay such obeisance to nature, as in the Dhokra art!
 

Chhattisgarh Handicraft - Bell Metal / Dhokra Craft‘Dhokra’ is derived from the ‘Dhokra Damar’ tribe, who traditionally employ the lost wax technique to cast non-ferrous metals. Almost 4,000 years old, one of the earliest examples of this technique is the famous ‘Dancing Girl’ figurine excavated from Mohenjo Daro. Dhokra and Bell Metal are used interchangeably since this  metal (an alloy of copper and tin mixed in the ratio 3:1) is commonly used in the process. 

 

The Process:Chhattisgarh Handicraft - Bell Metal / Dhokra Craft
The traditional lost wax technique is simple and ideal for use in tribal settings. The craftsman begins by winding a slim thread of wax over the contours of a clay core. It is then thickly coated with fine clay obtained from termite bills, and baked on drying, leaving a narrow vent to melt away the wax. The vacuum created between the core and the clay layer is filled with molten metal, which is then allowed to cool down and solidify. The moment that follows is loaded with anticipation; for it is then that the outer clay mould is cracked open, revealing the beauty of the final sculpture. Simple as this whole process seems, it requires great precision and skill. The metal must be able to flow uniformly and freely through the narrow spaces, and replace the wax without forming any bubbles or gaps. 

Cow dung, paddy husk and red soil are also used in the manufacture of Dhokra artifacts, of all the raw materials used by the Ghadwas, the most important is beeswax. Besides the essential contouring, wax wires and pieces are also used for decorations required for finishing the artifacts. It is used because of its extraordinarily high plastic content and pliability, generating a rudimentary but powerful stimulus for the intensive design and faculties of the artisans. 

Examples of lost wax casting (also known as ‘cire perdue’) are found across the globe, but the coiled thread technique is unique to Bastar. A glance at the traditional baskets provides a clue to its origin. The basket makers would wind grass around a rope, which was then coiled into shape. The same technique was translated into metal only much later, with forest dwellers being dependent on natural product long before they began to use metal. Metal anklets with basket weave motifs, and beautiful containers reminiscent of wicker baskets also point towards such a transition. 

The Product:
The craft of Bell Metal was initially used to produce articles for ritualistic purposes only. Articles like the idols of the deities, diyas, and utensils were most common. The first article to be made is believed to be of the Danteshwari Mata, the cult figure of the Gond tribals of Bastar and Sarguja State. Articles of totemic significance were also produced, for instance the depiction of the Mahua tree and the Tree of life. Animal figurines such as those of horses and Elephants are especially charming. They depict the vehicles of gods, coming from afar to pay homage to the local goddess Danteshwari, often portrayed on an elaborate swing. Combs have a special significance amongst the tribals of this rustic society. Boys carve these combs themselves in elaborate patterns. They carry them as a symbol of magical protection, and also give them to their favorite girls.

Besides the figurines of deities, ritualistic articles and animal figures, the Ghadwas today create a wide array of products including, utility items like table top accessories, candle stands, jewelry boxes, jewelry items etc. Other than the Ghadwas of Bastar, the members of Jhara community in the Raigarh district  are also actively involved in the creation of Dhokra Craft items. Although, the artisans of this region special in two dimensional “Jali” and have mastered the art over a period of time. The Baigandih and Ektal villages in Raigarh district are home to scores of artisans who produce these beautiful crafts. 

Main Artists: 

Shri. Jaideve Baghel, Kondagaon - National Awardee, 

Shri. Rajendra Baghel, Kondagaon - National Awardee

Shri. Govind Ram Jhara, Ektaal - National Awardee, State Awardee

Shri. Uday Ram Jhara, Ektaal - National Awardee, State Awardee

Shri. Ram Lal Jhara, Ektaal - National Awardee

Shri. Sampoorn Indwar, Baigandih - State Awardee

Main Centres:

Raigarh District: 

1. Village Ektaal, Block Pusor

2. Village Baigandih, Block Sarangarh

3. Village Kandurpali, Block Sarangarh

4. Village Damdarhaa, Block Sarangarh

5. Village Ghoraghati, Block Sarangarh

6. Village Vishnupali, Block Baramkela

Bastar District: 

1. Kondagaon

2. Village Karanpur, Block Kondagaon

3. Village Dahikonga, Block Kondagaon

4. Village Chilkutti, Block Jagdalpur

5. Village Errakote, Block Jagdalpur

6. Village Alwai & Temra, Block Bastar

7. Village Sidnur, Block Jagdalpur

8. Village Nangoor, Block Jagdalpur

9. Village Baniyagaon, Block Kondagaon

10. Village Nagarnar, Block Jagdalpur

11. Village Khorkhosla, Block Bastar

12. Village Bhond, Block Bastar

13. Village Ichhapur, Block Bastar

Narayanpur District: 

1. Narayanpur City

2. Village Benur

3. Orrchcha

4. Village Godadi

5. Village Dhaudai 
 

 

 

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