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, ...
Magnificent turtle with its shell richly decorated with geometric patterns often used in Dokra art. A solar flower adorns the center of the shell.
The turtle symbolizes longevity, endurance, prudence. Its shell, its four legs anchored in the ground represents strength, power.
In Hinduism, among others, the turtle is the support of the world: it is associated with the primordial waters which allowed the manifestation of the world. It can also be the incarnation of Vishnu, then a symbol of regeneration, when it emerges from the water bearing the earth on its shell. It also symbolizes the absolute when, with its head retracted, the turtle is nothing more than a shell, the primordial state. All of these qualities make it embody wisdom.
Harmony with nature holds a primordial place among animist tribes in India who cannot conceive of nature as belonging to them. They form a whole with Her and this sculpture clearly marks this strong bond.