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, ...
Sitting in a classical posture with his belly protruding, Ganesh plays the celestial music. Sitting in a classical posture with his belly protruding, Ganesh plays the celestial music. What is astonishing about this statue is the absence of the pedestal characteristic of Hindu sacred art. The artist Dokra does not have the same constraints and the influence of animism does not oblige the gods to be represented and enthroned on a pedestal (which shows the divine as a manifest form that never touches the earth).
Ganesh's belly is the dominant aspect of this sculpture: so although it is always big because it is the centre of vital energies, it takes up all the space here. It totally symbolizes anchoring, presence here and now, stability (so much so that it rests on the ground!).
Ganesh practices the Nagara, a drum in the shape of a cauldron, which, unlike the Dholak, is played with two sticks.
The particular technique of making Dokra art can be seen in the transverse lines of the belly and the ears, which mark the use of wax threads.
Note: in tribal art, Ganesh is not always wearing his mount: the rat.