|The Dhokra Kamar tribes are the traditional metalsmiths of West Bengal. They follow a technique of metal casting known as Dhokra, named after the tribe. A look at these artefacts makes you believe that they have been made out of a single piece of wire wound around a piece of clay. But that is not the case. The object is cast in metal, using what is known as the lost- wax technique. The artefacts are ritual objects and their themes are mostly animals, jewellery, and icons of gods and goddesses. The Dhokras make many varieties of diyas (lamps) that are both single and multiple. Some of the lamps are mounted on elephant back.
The lost-wax technique is not confined to India only. Evidence of this kind of casting of copper based alloys has been found in China, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, and some areas of Central America too.
Amongst the trinkets made by these artisans, payeri (anklets), hansuli (necklace), earrings and bangles are most abundant. Besides these, some of the knickknacks made by these artisans are the Buli (piggybank), and a ceremonial finial pot kalas, which is mounted on a wooden pole for festivals.
The Dhokra Kamar tribes are part of the same family, which includes the Malhars of Jharkhand and Sithrias of Orissa (metal craftsmen). The West Bengal metal workers, known as the Dhokras and the Dheppons inhabit the districts of Bankura, Midnapore, Purulia, Birbhum and Burdwan.
The Dhokra metal casting is perhaps the only living tradition of metal image making in Eastern India. The technique has managed to survive many centuries and change of dynasties owing to its modesty of application in everyday lives of ordinary people. Today, with the modernization setting in and the lifestyle of the tribals changing with time, the Dhokra metal craft is slowly fading away.