Metal Craft in Bihar: A Brief Introduction

Dokra Craft, Metal Craft in Bihar Credit: Village Square
Dokra Craft, Metal Craft in Bihar Credit: Village Square

Bell metal is a mixture of copper and tin. Wax and wood which are essentially needed for these forest-based metal crafts are naturally available in abundance in tribal areas of Bihar. The craft received patronage from the Royal families, who used to pay the artisans to make idols.

Brass or bell metal craft items are prepared by melting the metal using a lost-wax technique. All individuals and group artisans work around their houses or at a common place. Raw materials required for bell metal art are a cluster of bees-wax, brass metal and fire-wood. The raw materials such as wax and metal are purchased from the market. The others like clay and fire-wood etc. are collected from the nearby forest itself. Artisans use a mixture of wax and resin and also pitch from coal tar. They mix two kilograms of the pitch with 250 grams of resin, melt the two items and strain them separately. Then they mix the two and heat the mixture over the fire, stirring it all the while. This process of mixing takes two hours or sometimes more. The mixture is strained again before using it. The manner of use of this mixture is identical to that of resin. These artisans are very precise in their work and follow their technique meticulously.

The next step is to wax them. The wax wires are prepared by pure bees-wax. The wires are separated and attached with the clay model from its front to back in around fashion. The whole of the clay image is covered with the wax wires and then they make several designs with these wires. After the desired designs on the image are completed, it is immediately coated again with clay. This time they use local soil added with sand and goat dung. At the time of coating, a hole or an opening is generally kept at the base of the image. The metal is then taken in a container. Generally, the metal is brass or bell metal. The container is then covered with a clay cup and is put into the furnace for two to three hours. After that, the molten metal is poured on to the image through the opening. Then the mold is kept for cooling. When the mold is cooled then water is sprinkled on the image, which makes the clay coat crack and break. The metal molds into the shapes and designs made by the wax wires. Thus, at last, an artistic bell metal or brass object is ready. The image is then scrubbed with sandy clay to give it shine. Sometimes they are even polished with wet tamarind.

As the Bell Metal products started easily flowing into the external markets, the number of artisans involved in the craft increased and so did the production.

Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan is training artisans and making them aware of modern techniques of bell metal craft.

Courtesy: UMSAS, Patna


Folkartopedia Archive is an online open resource of folk, traditional and tribal arts and expressions. We are constantly documenting artists, artworks, art villages, their artistic expressions, cultural heritage and other aspects of their life, to develop and enrich the archive that deserves you. We usually ask, what is the necessity of documentation and archives of arts? The answer is simple, what cultural heritage will we leave behind for our future generations in absence of documented work?

This effort cannot be a success, without your support. We need you and your support. If you think, the role of Folkartopedia is important, please support us.

You can help us by Instant Giving here.


The opinions expressed within this article or in any link are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Folkartopedia and Folkartopedia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Folkartopedia welcomes your support, suggestions and feedback.
If you find any factual mistake, please report to us with a genuine correction. Thank you.


Receive the latest updates


Folkartopedia is the leading resource of knowledge on folk art and expression in India. Stay connected.