DOKRA : Jewelry and More – a Lifestyle in Itself…
Dokra is the art of metal crafts amongst some aboriginal tribes of eastern India. The tribes were initially nomadic in nature, but later on settled down on the planes of Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh primarily. Falling victims to the vicious caste system, they remained the virtual out castes and from their position of liminality at the margin of the society, they continued to channelize their craftsmanship in making tribal jewelry, natural themed figurines of plants and animals and the non-Vedic gods that they worship.
For IMBB, I will write about jewelry – the lockets and necklaces, ear rings and hoops, anklets and bangles made of bronze alloys in the Dokra way of art…
Basically, bronze melted with lac and resin is solidified into alloyed wires and rods, sometimes plates. Then the figurines are made with them and the designs made. They are handcrafted, therefore, the shapes are not perfect, and the symmetries are not mirror image produced like in computer graphics. And the themes and subjects of Dokra jewelry being natural and animalistic are all simple, though immensely beautiful.
Here is a necklace of entwined vines and leaves shaped as an almond or a tear drop –
The pair of ear ornaments shows an inverted image of a flowering tree. Apart from Dokra, this ‘Tree of Plentiful’ is a stock theme in the ‘Madhubani’ School of art too –
Dokra jewelry sets are heavy in weight, and unfortunate people like me, who have very light ear lobes, have to avoid the bronze ear ornaments. This is an exquisite set, I particularly like the fish crafted solely of bronze wires as the locket –
The anklets and bangles are crafted the same, varying only in size and width depending on whether they are worn on the arms or legs –
According to www.webindia123.com, the process of making Dokra figurines and objects is as follows:
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 jewelry 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.
I am trying to find a makeup box made of Dokra. Unfortunately, I do not know where to order for personalized items like this –
And finally, this is my handcrafted wooden beads necklace with the Dokra locket –
Thanks to the awareness programs and ads and movements of preservation, we know that there are only 1411 tigers left in India, as of Feb 12, 2008. What we do not know is there are only 57 Dokra jewelry crafting households left in the whole world.
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