There were traveling groups of metal craftsmen sporadically distributed all over the mineral high, tribal belts of central India such as in the tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Vindhya hills vicinity, Orissa and Bengal. These nomadic metal craftsmen, belonging to socially inferior castes are referred to as Dokra or Dhokra.
The beautifully decorated ornamental figurines in a variety of shapes and designs in metal and brassware that these dokras produce/produced are known as Dokra artifacts or Dokra craft.
Nowadays these traveling craftsmen have left their nomadic habit behind and have chosen to settle down to in particular tribal belts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Burdwan and Midnapore districts of west Bengal. At one point of time, these traveling craftsmen had chosen to settle down to in Rampur on the outskirts of the district headquarters in one of the districts of Bengal; later they shifted to a new town called Bikna.
Being a metal smith or a kamar/karmakar in Bengal method belonging to the lowest social rank or hierarchy. These metal smiths or Dokra kamars happened and nevertheless happen to be at the receiving end of people’s ridicule, derision, detestation and disgust because of their inferior social caste/rank. And so they are always forced to live on the fringes of society because of their low caste and chosen profession. They are well and truly social outcasts.
However, the dokras of Bengal who have settled down in one place, leaving their nomadic character behind, have also mostly left their trade of manufacturing Dokra items behind in addition. Currently, the once thriving industry of Dokra craft is surviving only because of the sustain of a few families who have nevertheless retained this trade as their only source of livelihood, already in the confront of abject poverty and social ostracism.
It is disheartening to observe that there are currently only 35 families of Dokra craftsmen nevertheless engaged in this high skill profession and the numbers are dwindling fast. The government of India needs to take up the cause of the Dokra craft and Dokra craftsmen on a war footing to save this dying art form which has invaluably contributed to the enrichment and promotion of folk culture.
But huge need in western culture has ensured that Dokra craft doesn’t die a silent death, rather it has received a big fillip and has experienced resurrection.