Metal is a tool that is commonly used for making craft among the tribes of India. Orissa is best known for its Dhokra metal casting which is an important traditional craft. This Dhokra casting is an essentially folk-art that is restricted in few places. People of Sithulias (an aboriginal caste) practice this craft. Other tribes like Ghaniaram, Thatarian and Gharien also practice Dhokra metal cast at Dhenkanal. The metal used for this casting is brass followed by lost wax method. Dhokra metal casting is not only the craft of Orissa but it is also found in Madhya Pradesh, Bengal and Bihar. Especially when it comes to Orissa, Dhokra metal casting is largely set in southwest of Orissa, namely Kuliana in the Mayubhanj district, Kaimatin Keonjhar district, Haradagaria in the Puri district and Sadeibarni in the Dhenkanal district.
Dhenkanal district is an administrative division of Orissa. The district is covered with dense forest that is a home for animals like elephants, tigers and etc. Long range of hills are that acquires major land of this district is a feast for the nature lover. It is basically an agricultural land that provides the principle products of the district are firewood, timber, medicinal herbs and plants, bamboo and kendu leaf. The district is also famous for the celebration of Jagar Jatra i.e. Maha Shivaratri festival held during winter season. Since nineteenth century Dhenkanal has also proved that this place is the centre of religious movement, as the movement called “Mahima Dharma” has spread throughout India and Far East countries from then.
Dhenkanal is a Princely state until the independence of India. After the independence the district got merged with Indian Union and subsequently with Orissa in 1948. It is one of the centrally located districts of Orissa. The geographical area of Dhenkanal district is 1,719 sq mi. The land is divided into three natural divisions namely:
• Southern hilly region.
• Northern hilly region and
• The river valley with tributaries.
As Dhenkanal is an agricultural land, the soil of this district is classified into five different varieties. They are:
• Alluvial soil.
• Sandy loam soil.
• Red loam soil.
• Cleaving loan soil and
• Gravelly soil.
The district is surrounded by Kendujhar towards north, Cuttack towards south, Jaipur towards east and Anugul towards west. Dhenkanal has a long history, which has cluster of temples, a medieval fort and archaeological remains. During 2006 the district was named as Dhenkanal by Ministry of Panchayati Raj. Hindus mostly inhabit this region. The district has many tourist places and also has some large and medium scale industries. As Dhenknal is one of the country’s 250 most backward districts, the craft practiced by the people of aboriginal caste of this region is Dhokra metal casting for their livelihood.
The metallurgical skills with wax technique to create such beautiful Dhokra metal casting technique has also been used by Mohenjodaro craftsman to cast bronze figurine of a “Dancing girl” of 4500 years ago. Using the same technique the tribal families located at Dhenkanal cast the figures of gods and goddesses, lamps, boxes, ornaments and other ritual objects that are used for household needs. These products are sold mainly in local weekly market. The craft of Dhokra metal casting remains a strong link to socio-cultural connections in Orissa. The rural brides of this region also receive a dowry of such metal casted wares.
Dhokra is an alloy of nickel, brass and zinc. When these three are mixed in the appropriate proportion it gives an antique look and augments well with the interiors. The motifs that are mostly used for Dhokra are inspired by folk culture. But in the contemporary world artisans who are still practicing this particular craft also makes other utility items like door knob, ash-tray, pen holder, photo frame, butter box, candle, door handle and incense stick stand.