Traditional Metal Craft in Dhamrai

Visitors to the vibrant city of Dhaka may want to consider spending some time exploring the nearby upazilla of Dhamrai, home to artisans who continue the age-old traditions of metal craft that have been passed down through generations. While modern technology and mass-produced products have resulted in some crafts dying out, here in the predominantly Hindu community of Dhamrai, the tried and tested methods of crafting metal continues, and visitors will have the opportunity of watching brass and bronze being transformed into a wide range of objects, both decorative and practical.

Lost-wax casting is one of the primary methods used to craft metal in Dhamrai. Thought to date back some 4,000 years in Asia, this method uses a solid piece of wax to shape the required item, including all its details which are carved into the wax, this is then covered with layers of clay which becomes the mold. Small holes are made in the clay so that when it is baked, the wax can drain out as it melts, hence the term ‘lost-wax’. Molten metal is then poured into the clay mould, taking the shape of the sculpted wax. Once the metal has hardened, the clay mold is carefully removed, after which the metal item is polished and finished off. It requires a great deal of skill and patience to complete this process.

In an exhibition held at Dhaka‘s EMK Center in October 2013, the Banik family of Dhamrai Metal Crafts had the opportunity to display a variety of superbly crafted items. The intricate detail of works such as the statue of Nataraja – the Hindu Lord of Dance – is truly astounding and indicative of a craft that has been passed down in this family business for 200 years. Other items on display included statues of Lord Krishna, Tara, Durga, Radha, Sarospati, Mahaveera, Parboti, Buddha and Vishnu, as well as a miniature replica of the ancient Roth of Dhamrai.

The ancient tradition of metal craft which is practiced in villages around Dhamrai goes back to the Pala Dynasty (800-1100 AD) when Buddhist and Hindu communities flourished side-by-side in the region. This rich cultural history is still reflected in the metal crafts produced by skilled and dedicated craftsmen in this picturesque region of Bangladesh.