Originally, the word Dokra or Dhokra was used to specify a group of travelling craftsmen, scattered across Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradash who were identified by their marvellously crafted and ornate metal goods; these craftsmen later established themselves in and around the Burdwan, Bankura and Midnapore districts of West Bengal.
Dokras in Bankura craft various figures of gods and goddesses (such as Lakshmi, Lakshmi-Narayan, Shiva-Parvati flanked by Ganesh and Kartik), birds and animals (elephants, horses, owls, peacocks and such), while Dokras in Purulia are popular for paikona, dhunuchi, pancha pradeep, anklets and ghunghroos with mixed aluminium.
Dokra is said to be the oldest form of metal casting and is precisely known as ‘cire perdue’ or the lost wax procedure, wherein a duplication of the intended product is made with wax in a clay mould, with improvisations to design and decoration.
The lost wax hollow casting process consists of developing a clay core (roughly the shape of the final cast image), which is covered by a layer of wax (composed of pure bee’s wax, resin and nut oil); the wax is then shaped and carved in finer details of design and decorations, and covered with layers of clay; drain ducts are left for the wax to melt away when the clay is cooked, and molten metal is poured in. As it hardens, the clay is chipped off and the metal icon is polished to perfection.
The products of the Dokra artisans are hugely popular in both domestic and foreign markets even today because of their minimalist yet intriguing folk motifs and powerful forms, with the deities and animal figurines even enjoying abundant government patronage.
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