For those who don’t know what ‘Dokra’ is, it is an ancient craft that involves non-ferrous casting though the process uniquely known as ‘Cire Perdue’. It is an extremely old craft and got its name from the famous Dokra-Damar tribes of West Bengal and Odisha. The members of the Dokra-Damar tribe are the traditional metalsmiths famous for keeping this art alive. At present only 57 families in the country are involved in this craft. While most of the artisans are from Bengal, Orissa, Andra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also have a number of these craftsmen. In Kolkata, you can find these beautiful artifacts in many showrooms of the Dakshinapan saree shop.
History of Dokra
Turns out, this casting method is over 4,000 years old and artisans use it even today. The early traces of this casting method dates back to the civilization of Mohenjo-Daro where an artifact of a dancing girl has been dug up.
It is believed that the artists who were also known as Dokra Kamars, use a non-ferrous metal to cast using the famous ‘lost-wax’ casting technique. They use to meditate for several hours to form every minute detail in their mind before starting with their work. Even their trade name, Dokra Kamar, has deep meaning. In Bengali, ‘Dokra’ is almost a slur used against the poor and low-classed people. The word ‘Kamar’ stands for Metal Casters.
An Interesting Story
According to Mrignayani, an imitation jewellery manufacturer in Kolkata, almost three thousand years ago, a craftsman had gifted a ‘Dokra’ necklace to the Queen of Bastar (Chattisgarh). After seeing it, the King was so captivated, that he bestowed the craftsman with the title of “Ghadwa”. Interestingly, the word “Ghadwa” comes from the word “Ghalna” which means melting and working with wax.
Some Famous Dokra Artifacts
Some of the famous examples of Dokra designs are metal figurines, elephants, peacocks, horses, etc. This craft has fame in both the Indian and International market for it’s aesthetic and primitive simplicity and beautifully delicate finesse. In addition, it’s rustic and antique finish only adds to its charm.
The Current State of Affair
Unfortunately, this beautiful form of art is facing a steady decline worldwide. With heavy competition and cheaper competitive prices, it is losing its international demand. One of the main reasons for the decline is an increase in the cost of raw materials which ends up makes the end products too expensive. However, with each passing year, more and more artisans are losing their inspirations and therefore leaving this trade.
In conclusion, we consider Dokra to be an integral part of Kolkata’s Handicraft heritage. With the help of the Indian government, we are trying to revive this art by organizing fairs and ‘mela’. In addition, let us do our part and stop this beautiful craft from meeting its painful demise.