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The Origins of the Dokra Art Form

The Dokra Art form is the very first form of non-ferrous metal casting technique known to human beings. Initially, the term was used to refer to groups of nomadic craftsmen, who were scattered over several states including Odisha, Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. The tribes originally practicing the trade were called as the Dokra Damar Tribes. While the number of families practicing the trade has drastically reduced over time, there are a few craftsmen scattered over central and eastern Indian states still practicing the art form.

The technique used is making Dokra objects can be referred to as the ‘cire due’ or the ‘lost wax process’ and is the oldest known metal casting technique known to human beings. The origins of the technique can be traced back 4000 years to the time of the Harappan civilization. The technique uses the creation of a core object using clay or wax. The core object has all the intricate details of the original object. After the creation of the object, clay paste is applied over the replica and left to dry. The wax is then replaced with molten metal, which in most cases is brass.

Over time many tribes practicing the trade have migrated to different states, such as Kerala in the South and Rajasthan in the north. The migration has brought about changes to the casting technique used by the craftsmen. Instead of a hollow casting method, the migrated tribes have adopted a solid casting technique.

Three major factors distinguish Dokra objects from other metal objects – “the primitive simplicity, a forceful art form, and folk motifs”. The above factors have created a huge demand for the Dokra figurines and Dokra Jewellery, both in domestic and international markets. Presently, some craftsmen are introducing more contemporary designs, considering the preference of the market.

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