The Bastars people
The Bastar is a district of South India in the state of Chattisgarh, it was an independent kingdom from the 14th century until its integration into India in 1948.
The tribal population accounts for 70% of the population of Bastar district: the main tribes are the Gonds - the Abhuj Maria and the Bhatras. Most of them have kept their traditions (cooking, clothing, festivals...) and their animist religion.
The tribes still live mainly from agriculture and forest resources (hunting, medicinal plants, wood...).
Some tribes have devoted themselves to brass statuary art for more than 4000 years. This art, also found in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar... is called Dokra.
This traditional and artisanal art has not changed for millennia (more than 4000 years) and the technique used is still that of lost wax: a rough model in clay is made and then covered with wax by the artist who will give it its final shape with its details. The whole is again covered with a clay mixture and then heated in an open hearth where a copper alloy is cast. See Blog.
The objects produced by the Dokra artists can be of usual nature: dish, candlestick... musical instruments (brass), or artistic such as jewelry, animals: horses, elephants, turtles..., or statues of men and women representing scenes of daily life and Hindu deities adopted by the tribes: Ganesh, Lakshmi, ...
Delicate statuette of a fish with its body richly decorated with geometric patterns often used in Dokra art.
Above all, the Dokras represent the elements of nature that surround them: fish, the symbol of life, thus plays a major role in their diet.
The fish represents fertility, purification, rebirth and regeneration.
Moreover, in Hinduism Matsya Vishnu, is the 2nd avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu: it is the fish, savior of the flood and of the Vedas. There are several stories about the coming of Matsya: one of them tells that Manu, considered the first human on Earth (like Adam) found a small fish: this one asked him to protect him indicating to him that he would save him of the flood many years later. Manu then watched over Matsya who grew up and took such a place that only the ocean could contain him. When the time came, like Noah, Manu built a boat, housed the sages, plants and animals in it. This is how Vishnu saved humanity but also the Vedas that the demon Haryagrîva had hidden in the ocean.
Harmony with nature holds a primordial place among animist tribes in India who cannot conceive of nature as their own. They form a whole with her and this sculpture clearly marks this strong bond.