| Dhokra Metal Craft
The metal smiths using the lost wax process of metal casting or
hollow casting method in West Bengal, are known as Dokra Kamars. The ironsmiths
are known in Bengal as Kamars or Karmakar and other metal smiths as Sekras.
The word Dokra in Bengali is used with contempt for those who are socially
low and despised. Of all craftsmen in West Bengal, these metal smiths
are socially most persecuted and are being treated as social outcasts.
Hence they are called Dokras.
The Dokras are now dispersed over the western part of
West Bengal in four districts namely Bankura, Purulia, Midnapore and Burdwan
and are mainly concentrated in Bankura and partly in Purulia.
The Dokras who lived in a small suburb called Rampur
on the fringe of Bankura town have shifted to Bikna. These Dokras make
various kinds of images and figures of gods and goddesses, birds and animals,
like Lakshmi, Lakshmi-Narayan, Siva-Parvati flanked by Ganesh and Kartik,
elephants, horses, owls, peacocks etc.
The Dokras of Netkamla and Bindhyajan do not make ritual
objects, like images of deities and animal figures. Their main items of
production are measuring bowls or paikona of different sizes and mal or
anklets and ghunghru or tinkling dancing bells for the Santhals. The Dokras
of Lakshmisagar make images of deities and figures of animals and sell
their products in local markets and fairs.
In Purulia the Dokras are widely known as Mals or Malhars
to common people, although the Dokra artisans are considered lower in
social rank. In Purulia, there are some semi-nomadic Malhars, who move
about from village to village, take shelter in community houses, outhouses
or temporary camps under trees and make various kinds of metal products
by the lost wax process. They make paikona, dhunuchi, pancha pradeep,
anklets, ghunghrus with mixed aluminium by the lost wax process but do
not make any images or figures.
Process: First the craftsman start preparing
the casting furnace and the wax image. The wax and the resin (dhuna) should
be correctly mixed with oil to make the necessary lump. The image to be
made must be vividly visualized by the craftsman through meditation, until
it is ready to be modeled in the prepared lump of wax. When the wax-image
is done it has to be purified with pancha- varna or the five powdered
pigments. The joints of the component parts of the wax model should be
reinforced with copper rods or nails before being covered by the clay
mould. These supports may be chiseled off after the wax model melts away
in the heat of the furnace.
The craftsman sculptures a wax model of the metal object
desired, makes a mould of clay, pours molten metal into a hole in the
mould, breaks away the clay, brings out the object and finally smoothes
and polishes it. The most important rule, in this metal craft is played
by non-metals like wax, resin and clay and the artistic work is done with
them. The chief function of the metal is to get transformed into liquid
under heat and then to get solidified again inside the mould.
The deities and the animals which are now made by the
Dokras either under governmental patronage or independently are definitely
much inferior in quality and craftsmanship to the older ones.