Dhokra Handicrafts: Relive the Glory of Bronze Age in Odisha

Dhokra Handicrafts: Relive the Glory of Bronze Age in Odisha

Until the discovery of invaluable and meaningful artefacts, most of our understanding about life in the past seemed like a figment of our imagination. With the unearthing of

Ancient crafts, scriptures and pieces of art, the curtains to a new world opened before us, a world which we divided into epochs and eras based on the crafts and materials discovered.

The Bronze age in India commenced in and around 3300 BC, with the onset of the Indus Valley civilization. It was an age characterized by innovatively unkempt metallurgy that still remains unmatched today. The onset of the Bronze Age also marked the discovery of the famous ‘Dancing Girl statue,’ the oldest evidence of the ‘lost-wax technique’ of metallurgy in India, commonly known today as Dhokra Art.

Origination of Dhokra in Odisha

Dhokra art has been named after the nomadic Dhokra Damar tribe who primarily belonged to the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Thus, Odisha has been one of the nerve centres of Dhokra handicrafts in India. Even though we find traces of Dhokra art across the span of the Indian subcontinent, the primary Dhokra-practicing tribes settled in the interior and rural areas of this state, where they honed their skills to perfection, creating an art that is one of its kinds, till date.

Initially, Dhokra handcrafted products were created in numerous districts of Odisha, a few of them being Puri, Khurda, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Nayagarh, Sambalpur, Ganjam, and Phulbani. Subsequently, Dhenkanal became the only surviving epicentre of Dhokra in Odisha.

Dhenkanal - Where Art Imitates Life

As the popularity of Dhokra reduced in different parts of India, Dhenkanal continued to rise as the citadel of Dhokra art in Odisha. While other regions like Rayagada district are also well known for Dhokra production, the antique creations of Dhenkanal remain unbeatable.

Two prominent villages of Dhenkanal are known for their creation of Dhokra - Sadeibareni and Navjeevanpur. Ghantaras are the main tribes residing in these villages, occupying themselves with different steps and procedures of creating Dhokra handicrafts. The members of different households can be seen occupied with some or the other step of creating Dhokra pendants, earring, necklaces, statues, etc.

It is believed that in these quaint villages of Dhenkanal the art imitates life as each creation is inspired by the usual lifestyle of the tribal populace. The statues find forms similar to the traditional attires of the tribals. As they go about their daily lives, making the moulds, softening the wax, and wrapping the moulds with slender threads, the beauty of the art and pain of their hardships reflect in the final product, which can take up to months. Additionally, all the pieces are actually inspired by and designed using the elements of nature, which include motifs of the sun, the moon, branches, leaves, and flowers.

How Is Dhokra Art in Odisha Unique?

Dhokra art in itself is known for its exclusivity. It is widely believed that two Dhokra products can never be the same. The creations in Odisha still stand out. If the creator of the ‘Dancing-Girl’ figurine visited Odisha in the present day, they would not have found a stark difference in the production process of Dhokra products. Most of the process remains as old as the one followed during the Bronze Age.

What makes Odisha’s Dhokra different is the darker tinge that comes with each product. The soil used to create the Dhokra products in Odisha causes the final product to be darker. This is why the Dhokra created in Kandhamal and Dhenkanal are also known as ‘Black Metal Dhokra.’ Some also attribute a bluish tone to the handicrafts of Sadeibareni. These variations can be caused due to the soil or the kind of wax used.

Some art enthusiasts also point out that the curves and lines on the Dhokra handicrafts produced in Odisha are clean and smooth as compared to the ones produced in other parts of India.

Odisha - The Living Testament of the Bronze Age

The primitive style of production of Dhokra crafts has not yet progressed much in Odisha. Every step that it involves has to be executed from hand, making it laborious and time consuming. If one visits these unfamiliar lanes, hidden away from the hustle-bustle of the  conventional and modern world, they would definitely get an insight into what life was in the primitive days of the Bronze Age, where every piece of metal art was created after spending days and months.

With changing times, the demands of progress also came knocking the doors of these villages that revel in their solitary primitivism. To match up with these transformations, Ghantaras have made persistent efforts to create modern products that resonate with the modern society. However, they aggressively refuse to be parted from their roots and consciously retain the beauty of their art, however modern the products may get. 

One can visit the undiscovered villages of Odisha and witness the Dhokra artisans in their own setting. While Sadeibareni is around 65 kms from Bhubaneswar, it is often more difficult to reach Navjeevanpur. If you want these unique creations right at your doorstep, purchase the best Odisha Dhokra handicrafts online from https://www.dhokrahandicrafts.com/.

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