The tribes of Chhatisgarh practice many crafts and the products of these skilled artisans are gaining in popularity all over the world today. Some of the crafts are described below.
The skilled craftsmen use different kinds of wood like teak, shisham, dhudi, kikar and sal to carve wooden ceilings, doors, window frames, pipes, masks and sculptures.
Due to the presence of bamboo thickets in Chhatisgarh, articles of decorative and daily use are produced which include implements used for agriculture, hunting tools, fishing traps and baskets.
Jewellery is crafted by skilled craftsmen in gold, silver, bronze and mixed metal. The men and women of the various tribes wear traditional ornaments made of cowries, feathers and beads.
Bell Metal or Dhokra
This Dhokra Art done with lost wax technique or hollow casting is made on craft bell metal handicrafts using brass and bronze.
Traditional smiths of the Dhokra Kamar tribes excel in the art of metal casting. This specialized art form, named after the community itself, is called Dhokra. The Dhokras of Bikna, originally resided in Bankura, and are renowned artisans with a gifted talent, passed on for generations. In Chhatisgarh, Bastar & Raigarh districts are famous for Dhokra art. Tribes like ‘Ghadwas’ of Bastar and ‘Jharas’ of Raigarh practice this craft.
These Dhokras specialize in figures and image making of various deities like Lakshmi, Lakshmi-Narayan, Siva-Parvati flanked by Ganesh and Kartik. Different animals and birds like elephants, horses, owls, peacocks etc also find their places into these pieces of art. The Dhokras of Netkamla and Bindhyajan are the typical makers of the items such as measuring bowls or paikona of different sizes and anklets (mal), tinkling dancing bells (ghunghru). The specialty of Dhokra handicraft is that each relic seems to have been made up of a seamless wire coiled around the clay article. This is indeed an illusion as the metal casting is done using the lost-wax technique which forms the main attraction of this craft. The earliest known lost wax artefact is the dancing girl of Mohenjodaro. It is believed that the lost-wax technique for copper casting had been found in other East Asian, Middle-East and Central American regions as well. In Purulia, the Dhokras make mixed aluminum by the lost wax process but do not make any images or figures; they rather make paikona, dhunuchi, pancha pradeep, anklets, and ghunghrus.
Dhokra metal casting is generally famous for unique artefacts like animals, jewelry, piggybank (Buli), ornamented pots and various deities. In the genre of jewelry: payeri (anklets), hansuli (necklace), earrings and bangles are most in demand because of the style statement they impart. The single and multiple diya lamps are, even molded in the forms of elephants, and are considered auspicious for many Hindu occasions. Dhokra is the only live example of the metal casting in East India as other similar crafts have faded away with time.
Wrought Iron or Loha Shilp
This craft is made with recycled scrap iron with which metal artefacts and figurines are used to make candle stands, lamps, toys and deities.
Clay and Terracota
Animal and human figurines, clay images of Gods and Goddesses, clay murals, clay relief, carvings, masks and lamps are exquisitely made by the craftsmen.
Toys and Dolls
Toys and dolls which are hollow are crafted and these generally do not require use of any tools. Figures of birds, animals with wheels designed for children and whistle toys resembling the period of ancient civilisation are very popular with the tourists.
Traditional tattoo motifs are painted on textiles with natural colours obtained from forests and combined with acrylic paint to ensure stability on fabric.
Attractive cotton fabrics are hand woven with Kosa thread and then hand-printed with natural vegetable dye extracted from the forests. Sarees, dress materials and drapes are made from these fabrics.