Embrace The Beauty Of The Humble Brass Jewellery Of India

India is a country that takes pride in having a heritage filled with various types of jewellery styles; but one of the most old and undermined kind of jewellery our country has to offer is the intricate form of brass jewellery that is made by the process of Dhokra art.

Dhokra (also spelt as Dokra) workers use the lost-wax casting technique to produce the non-ferrous metal casting known as Dhokra. Dhokra has been used in India since 4000 years ago. Dhokra products and their artisans are highly popular both in domestic and foreign markets, their speciality being figurines of tribal and folk nature - horses, elephants, dance postures - and also beautiful pieces of jewellery.

There are two major kinds of lost-wax casting used to make Dhokra pieces: Solid casting and Hollow casting. While the former process is mostly used in South India, the latter one is predominant in Central and Eastern India. Solid casting does not use a clay core, but instead a 'solid' piece of wax, to create the mould and hence the name. Meanwhile, the more traditional method i.e. hollow casting uses a clay core. 

Ethnic Sutra - Necklace with Earrings

 

The craft:The art of making Dhokra is indeed an extensive & interesting process. Firstly, a clay core is developed roughly in the shape of the final cast image. Then, the clay core is covered by a layer of molten wax after which the wax is given a shape and carved with finer details & designed by the hands of the skilled craftsman. It is then covered again with layers of clay that becomes a mould for the metal that will be poured inside it. When the clay is cooked, the wax melts away and is replaced by the molten metal, mostly brass, which takes the same shape as the wax. Finally, the outer layer of the clay is chipped off and the metal figurine or jewellery is polished and finished off.

Dhokra craft is made by different communities like the Situlias, Ghantaras, Thataries, Ghasis, Bathudisetc who extend from Jharkhand to West Bengal to Orissa and who are distant cousins of Chhattisgarh Dhokra communities. A few hundred years ago, the Dhokras originated from the Central and Eastern India to the South as far as Kerala and to the North as far as Rajasthan and hence, is now found all over the country.

Dhokra craft is also known as 'Bharaikaam' in Madhya Pradesh and sculpted by the artisans, the brass figurines depict the tribal traditions and the beliefs of the Gonds of Betul. Figures of elephants, cattle, horses, peacock etc are crafted on the vessels and jewellery by the craftsmen known as 'Bhareva'. The Gond, Muria, Bhatra, Dhruvatribals are articulate in the production of brass jewellery. Most of the basic motifs are linear or circular; for eg: spiral motif (chakri), rope motif, zigzag motif, waves motif etc.

Dhokra is also practised extensively in Chattisgarh, in the areas of Lalitpur, Raigarh, Sarguja and most importantly in Bastar. Ghadwas, Jharas, Malars, Swarnakarsare the tribal communities engaged in this art. Mutni, Sooja, Pinachaku, Hatwani, Chimta are the common tools used to craft these intricate pieces of brass craft.

Tribal Saga' necklace with metallic pendant

Some of the finest metal-casters since ancient times came were found in West Bengal.  It’s said that the DhokraKamars of Bengal meditate for several hours for the image of the sculpture they wanted to create to be deeply ingrained in their minds. The Dhokra artisans work in the Bankura, Purulia, Midnapore&Burdwan districts of West Bengal, with Bolpur being the most popular region for this craft. The Bengal Dhokra artists specialize in Dhokra figurines of Gods &Godesses and birds & animals, along with jewellery.

In Orissa, the Dhokra artisans reside at Dhenkanal which is a two hour drive from Bhubaneshwar. It is a village which is nestled amidst green mountains. The whole settlement in that village are descendants of artisans who had migrated from Bastar (the Dhokra community in Chattisgarh) hundreds of years ago. The jewellery or the figurines they make have minor imperfections or damages which they attribute to 'God’s Work' and accept the damages positively that come in life. The other villages in Orissa where Dhokra artisans live are Phulbani, Koraput, Rayagada etc. 

Dhokra Jewellery:Dhokra jewellery is actually a popular genre of Indian tribal ethnic jewellery. Raw materials that are used for this beautiful jewellery are metal(Brass), beads, wood, bone, thread, horn etc which are easily available and used to create beautiful designs. Dhokra jewellery is produced in various styles &sizes, and is one of the most unrecognized assets of India. 

The Dhokra artisans of Madhya Pradesh make traditional jewellerypieces with motifs of leaves, spirals, animal heads etc. which represent the design aesthetics & culture of their tribe. 

Spikes, spirals and webbed intricate pendants & earrings are popular styles of the ChattisgarhDhokra craftsmen and are predominantly produced in the region.

The Dhokra jewellery of West Bengal come in forms of animals, tribal masks, geometric motifs & figures that are used to create earrings, pendants, anklets & bangles.

Ethnic Necklace with Metallic Pendant

The Dhokra community of Orissa create ornate jewellery pieces inspired by nature. Necklaces and earrings with small floral motifs, fishes and geometrical shapes are commonly worked on in this region. There are minute carvings done on the brass beads which are generally circular or square shaped. The beads are then woven into thick cotton threads or are wound over with wire to form stylish jewellery pieces.

Thus, we see Brass Jewellery or Dhokra is a craft which has been passed down since many decades but it is gaining recognition only recently as people are realizing that this genre of jewellery provides a very classic, simple, ethnic look at a very affordable price. Today’s fashionable women have recognized the beauty & versatility of Dhokra jewellery which can be flaunted with both ethnic attires & western outfits with effortless ease. The metallic hue of brass lends this jewellery an antique look, while the authentic tribal designs make the pieces covetable. A stylish woman can spruce up a simple dress with a gorgeous Dhokra necklace or add a chic twist to a saree with a pair of beautiful Dhokra earrings. This increasing demand for this kind of traditional tribal ornaments has helped to revive the dying craft in many Dhokra villages and is bringing out the beauty of brass jewellery, not only in India, but abroad too!

 

Ganges India

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