Initially, crafts persons used to make brass vessels to measure rice, bells of different kinds, anklets, lamps (diya) and figures of local mythical characters like Jibat Bamun , Deeporani and idols of deities. At present, the crafts persons make a variety of decorative items. Dokra products like bullock cart, horse, elephant, peacock, owl, Nandi (bull), idols of Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh and Lakshmi Narayan, lamp, candle stand, incense stick holder, ash tray, soap case, mobile holder, door knob, figurines of women, mother and child, tribal couple, wall panels with stories of Krishna Leela and other designs, lamp shade, vase etc are made. Demand for measuring bowls have decreased but these are now made as decorative Dokra bowls. Traditionally, the craftspersons made jewellery for their own family members but now a variety of modern jewellery products like necklace with beads and dokra, lockets, ear rings, bangles are made for the markets. Creative pieces like Krishna on chariot, tribal figures etc. are also produced.
Dokra products involve a tedious process of designing, metal casting and finishing touches that need immense care, creativity and passion for the craft. Each piece of the art work is unique as one mould can only be used for one product.
First the mud is sieved by women to make it free from pebbles. Then it is mixed with water and a smooth dough is formed. After this, the initial rough structure is made and kept in the sun for drying.
After that, the wax and tar work is done to bring out the shape of the item. In Bikna, crafts persons use tar and resin wood gum (Dhuno) to form an elastic substance produced through continuous heating and cover the mud structure with the elastic mix. In Dariyapur, crafts persons use wax and tar. As wax is very soft, resins are mixed. 1 kg of wax is mixed with 600 gm of resin and 500 gm of mustard oil. For further precision, form, and fine detailing a layer of resin and mustard oil is applied. 1 kg of resin is mixed with 250 gm of mustard oil. The intricate designs and the detailing are done with these elastic threads.
Thereafter a thick layer of mud is pasted and the structure is perforated on top and metal pieces are introduced in it through a metal funnel and then the whole thing is wrapped with the mud and dried in the sun and put into the furnace.
The crafts persons know the exact time required for the completion of the process. The products are then carefully taken out using tongs and the mud wrap, which is now hard, is broken. Inside lies the beautiful creation of the artist just like a pearl in an oyster. Buffing is done to give shine, polish and to make the surface even.
The steps of making Dokra craft
It is said that about three thousand years ago the king of Bastar, which is in the state of Chattisgarh, was gifted a Dokra necklace for his beloved wife. He was charmed on seeing the necklace and thus honored the craftsmen with the title “Ghadwa”.
The name Ghadwa has been derived from the word “Ghalna” meaning melting and working with wax. It’s also derived from the word “Ghadna” meaning the act of shaping and creating. They are also known as Vishwakarmas, Ghasias, Mangan and Kansara in some regions of India.
With time, the process got improvised by the craftsmen and gradually evolved as a fine form of designer art. This long tradition coupled with the intrinsic starkness and vitality makes Dokra a coveted collector’s item. The craft is characterised by its primitive simplicity, charming folk motifs, rustic beauty and imaginative designs and patterns. Today the rural artisans make jewellery with dokra craft which effectively woo the urban populace. Dokra products involve a tedious process of designing and metal casting and finishing touches are given on them with immense love, care and creativity. Each piece of the art work is unique as only one mould can be used for one product. A neckpiece, bangle or earring made of Dokra art work can make you the cynosure of a soiree.