The Dhokra Kamars (‘kamar’ is term reserved for metal workers) were originally nomadic artisans who travelled through much of eastern and central India. As is the case with most non-settlers, they eventually got ingested into the caste system of Hinduism and were allotted the very lowest strata of the pyramid – the Untouchables. The word Dhokra was often used by the upper castes as a derogatory term for an untouchable and the practice prevails till date, in the districts of Bankura and Dariapur in West Bengal. Astonishingly, these also happen to be the very places where these tribal groups are actively cultivating the ancient art of cire perdue or the casting of metal in wax moulds. The Dhokra Kamars, possibly one of the most creative artisan groups of East India, are also one of the poorest and most shunned sections of society. More appalling is the scenario where capitalist business minds are usurping the craft and mass producing them in the name of Dhokra. The “labels” are getting recognition for the crafts that are being created by untouchable hands.
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