Dhokra is a form of ancient bell metal craft practiced by the Ojha metal smiths living in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Telangana. However, the style and also the workmanship of this artisan community varies in different states. Dhokra or Dokra, is also known as bell metal craft. It is a tribal metal craft practiced in Jainoor Mandal, Adilabad District of Telangana. The village is located about 59 km from Adilabad district headquarters and nearly 264 km from Hyderabad.
In Telangana, they are also known as Ojjis who make brass metal art objects using the complex but the perfect lost wax technique for casting of the metal. The technique of lost wax casting is being practiced in India for more than 4000 years and even to this day, it is in use by these craftsmen. This was clearly observed in the objects recovered from the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro. These Dokra artifacts are mainly made in brass and are highly unique wherein the pieces do not have any form of joints. The whole object is fully handcrafted. The traditional designs are considered highly aesthetic in nature and a collector’s delight.
The method of making Dokra is done by combining the metallurgical skills with that of the lost wax technique. The handicrafts are known for combining the metallurgical skills with wax technique for making artefacts of distinctive look and beauty. The lost wax technique is a distinct form where the mould is used only once and broken, which makes the figure one of its kind in the handicraft market.
There are two process of lost wax casting. The first one is Solid casting which is the method followed in the South and hollow casting, practiced in other states. The hollow casting method makes use of clay core method, treated as the traditional method. The workmanship is practiced by the Woj community, who create the idols and figures. There are about 50 families in Adilabad district who are skilled in this ancestral craft, which is also a labour intensive work.
In this process, firstly the hollow casting is used for making a clay core that would define the way the object is created. The core is further filled with bee’s wax and resin etc. This wax is further shaped while finer details are made with proper embellishments. This job is mainly dependent on the carver’s skill, which is then covered with clay and there are drains made on the mould so thatthe wax can be drained after the mould is heated. The wax is replaced next by molten brass, gold, bronze or silver which is left for hardening inside the mould. The mould is subsequentlychipped away for retrieving the object inside. Finally it is polished and the finished product is put on display.
Dhokra is considered highlylabour intensive because even a simple piece requires 4-5 days whereas the complicated designs may require 2-3 weeks. The designs made are metal figurines, elephants, folk motifs, peacocks, horses and also household articles such as measuring bowls. The work is popular across the domestic and international markets due to the aesthetic and primitive simplicity. The work mainly involves folk motifs, peacocks, elephants, horses, lamp caskets and other simple traditional designs. Dhokra represents the exquisite variety and glory of Telangana’s handicrafts.