Finding glimpses of life in tribal art

metal magic

Finding glimpses of life in tribal art

Those who want to have a glimpse of the best of dhokra craft that forms the traditional art of Jharkhand, should to the tribal heartland of India. This particular craft has been practised since the Paleolithic times by the Malhor tribe spread across the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. One can come across dhokra craftsmen residing in and around Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Latehar, Lohardaga and in the districts of Gumla, Singbhum East and Dumka.

Jharkhand Silk Textile and Handicraft Development Corporation made a big stride to revive dhokra art works in 2009 with the support of voluntary groups. The art of dhokra craft shot into prominence during the 34th National Games that were scheduled to be held in Ranchi in 2009 when the government of Jharkhand developed mascot ‘Chhaua’ for the National Games. The work of crafting of the mascot was given to Jharcraft — an undertaking of the state government of Jharkhand. Nearly 300 craftsmen from all over the state were involved in crafting the mascot at Urban Haat in Hazaribagh. During the crafting of ‘Chhaua’, the value chain of dhokra craft was established in Urban Haat. Today, around 90 craftsmen are engaged in crafting stunning dhokra works in Urban Haat.

The Urban Haat in Hazaribagh is incidentally an exclusive destination in the country that flaunts the whole value chain of dhokra craft. For art buffs strolling through Jharcraft emporiums, the surprise is quite pleasant with beautifully-crafted figures, animal forms, lamps, jewellery and dance bells that come in dhokra works.

The craftsmen use beeswax, sal resins and dhuna. Some of them substitute beeswax with bitumen, and aluminium is used as a raw material. The process of crafting dhokra works is quite a long one and begins with moulding, design development, mud layering, casting, grinding, buffing, polishing and ends with packaging of the stuff. The various stages of crafting dhokra artefacts are done by different groups of craftsmen at different locations. Usually, it takes around a week to craft a single piece of the artefact.

Prices start from Rs 100 and can go up to Rs 10,000, depending upon the intricacy and magnitude of the items. There are dancing figurines and scores of animal figures apart from Hindu deities. One can pick up an eye-catching work of Goddess Durga clamped on Mahisasura that is pegged at Rs 3,500. A highly adorned elephant can come for Rs 5,000 while a dancing peacock for Rs 1,100. There are dhokra art works depicting the rural life of Jharkhand that are mounted on photo frames. During the festive season, Jharcraft offers a flat discount of 10 to 20% on dhokra works for one month.

Nowadays, the lifestyle of dhokra craftsmen has undergone a sea change, and they have done away with their drinking habits. The craftsmen are leading a secure life since most of them are engaged in crafting art works with Jharcraft.

There are two kinds of dhokra works depending upon the kind of casting process. In case of solid dhokra works, the artefacts are solid in nature and made of brass while hollow dhokra works are made of mud or clay core.

It is at Jharcraft showrooms that the art lovers are introduced to the whole exciting world of dhokra craft. Besides the major towns in Jharkhand, dhokra art works are on display in Jharcraft Emporiums in Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Patna, Bengaluru, Varanasi and Chennai.

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