The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke – Jerzy Kosinski
Dating back to thousands of years, India holds rich heritage in many art forms. One of them is Dhokra, which is being practiced for more than 4,000 years originated in West Bengal and now is practiced in most of the regions in India.
As much as most of our art forms are still practiced but hasn’t been recognized & rewarded as they deserve to be, they are slowly becoming extinct. Dhokra which is also widely practiced in Gadchiroli faced a major threat of naxalites that affected the adivasi craftsmen’s work to pursue it effectively.
Under an old Ficus tree an idea was seeded in 2008, which has now grown up to be Devrai Art Village an NGO in Panchgani that has created a platform for these craftsmen by nurturing their art work. Ms. Mandakini Mathur, founder of Devrai Art Village partnered with Mr. Suresh Pangati who is a craftsman by himself forming a creative set of team of adivasi craftsmen from Gadchiroli & Chhattisgarh.
Panchgani in Satara District in Maharashtra which is located on the Sahyadri mountain ranges is very well known for table land which is also the second longest mountain plateau in Asia and their strawberry farms. Stunning views of small hamlets in the alley, lush green paddy fields, Karvi flowers just starting to bloom and the still green mountains surrounding the whole town adds like glitters to the beauty of Panchgani.
Speaking about Dhokra, it is an art form that uses lost wax casting where a metal (Brass, Silver, Gold, etc) sculpture is formed using a mould which either can be made of wax or clay. I spent most of my time in Devrai by interacting with artists watching them manoeuvre their hands to form beautiful sculptures under the old Ficus tree.
Once in 15/20 days casting process takes place and I was lucky to see this as it was in progress on the day I reached. Shankar Nag, one of the artists explains how casting takes place. Every sculpture is shielded by mud that forms a mould and heated up for about 3-4 hours, at the same time brass is boiled for about 3-4 hours. Once the mould is heated, brass is poured and allowed to cool for a while before it’s broken & taken to the next process. As the process in itself was such a beauty to watch, I was also drawn to just stare at the fire & the boiling brass.
Rock Dhokra is a new feather added to the traditional Dhokra art, one of its kinds which were invented at Devrai. I spent some time with Suresh to understand the process of Rock Dhokra. Stones are picked by the river, based on the shape of the stone artists decide on what sculpture can be formed. Artists design the shape around the stone using bee wax; it is then moulded with mud (brought from Gadchiroli) and heated. Suresh says, there were many challenges when they started Rock Dhokra as the brass needs to be heated at the right temperature. A slight variation in the temperature can also cause damage to the sculpture which adds to more work on the next process.
Devrai Art Village also offers workshops for who is interested in learning the art form, internships for the art & design students, they also have apprentice from the adivasi community who learn the art form to make their living.
Let Devrai grow as mighty as a tree along with many other art forming branches leading to fruitful artists! If you would like to buy their art or contribute to Devrai please visit their Facebook page or check out their website.
2 years ago Mathur’s family extended their house with an intention to form a likeminded community by hosting creative set of people like artists, writers, designers, etc. Different species of trees, ponds filled with lilies, birds singing all day, beautifully built house with the view of valley, gallery displaying their art work, super friendly dogs & a warm family with creative minds makes your visit more peaceful & comfortable. If you would like to stay at Devrai, you can find them at Airbnb.
If you are in Panchgani in September, make sure to be part of Karvi Festival which is an Art festival in harmony with Music & Nature. They have live bands performing in a cave & nature trails organized witnessing Karvi flowers that bloom once in 8 years.
*I was hosted by Devrai Art Village.