Dhokra is an ancient bell metal craft practiced by the Ojha metal-smiths of Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Telangana – the style and workmanship of the artisan community being different in different states. In Telangana, the Ojha artisans are also known as Wojaris or Ojjis who create brass metal art objects using the tedious but perfect lost wax technique while casting the metal.
These handicrafts combine metallurgical skills with wax technique to create artefacts of distinctive beauty. The artisans make bronze and brass objects using the casting technique called dhokra,where a clay model is the core,over which,wax threads are wrapped around to form a layer.This is again covered with yet another layer of clay which has an opening. Molten bronze or brass is poured into this opening, which melts the wax completely, replacing it with brass or bronze. The cast object needs the outer mould to be broken each time.
Very often, the artisans take up only order based work with an advance. The purchase of raw materials would require an initial expenditure beyond their means, more so if the end products do not sell. Dhokra is a very labour intensive as making of a simple piece could consume 4-5 days while more complicated designs could take upto 2-3 weeks. The designs are usually traditional, though they are known to make contemporary designs on demand. The characteristic pieces include slender and elongated metal figurines, folk motifs, elephants, peacocks, horses and household articles like measuring bowls and lamps The unique feature of a dhokra artefact is that the pieces do not have any joints. The entire object is handcrafted with the final product that has a distinct texture depending on the wax strips used in its design.
The artisan communities in the Central Indian states are said to be doing reasonably well owing to support from respective governments. However, the smaller community of dhokra artisans living in the Adilabad district of Telangana is relatively backward in terms of economic status. Most of them work in the makeshift furnaces in the backyards of their homes.
Things have recently started looking up for the Ojhas of Adilabad as they have tapped into their local markets comprising of the Gond tribal homes and their seasonal jatras or fairs. The idols of local deities – Jangubai, Bheemalpen and Persapen are most popular as are other items used in worship. The study of their return to local markets is unique in the lives of all artisan communities.
Typically dhokra objects cost between Rs.300 -500.
- Bhujang Rao Ojha: +91 94-92-428293 [Keslaguda, Kerameri mandal]
- Indrajeet Ojha: +91 9652950224 [Belsari Rampur village in Tamsi mandal]
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After I published this blog post, a friend shared a few images of the kind of artefacts the Dhokra artisans are known to create. These images were taken during the Nagoba Jatara at Keslapur village, Indervelly Mandal in Adilabad earlier this year. The Nagoba Jatara is a 10 day tribal festival celebrated by the Mesaram clan of Gond/Adivasi tribes.