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Bell Metal originally is a hard alloy of about three parts of copper to one of tin, used for making bells. Also known as the dhokra craft, it is one of the most popular handicrafts from Madhya Pradesh. Somewhere near the edge of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, in Tikamgarh, bell metal casting has been practiced for many centuries. From canons and war weapons, to bullock carts and cattle bells for the farmer, to temple decorations, bell metal is used in all.
Madhya Pradesh is known for its bell metal crafts. The metal craft has been done here since primitive civilizations. The artisans create tribal deities, votive lamps, some items of tribal jewelry and other items that have ritualistic, religious and aesthetic appeal with bell metal. Creating shapes with melting wax and the imperfections which render a prized innocent charm, Bell metal casting has been practiced for centuries. The various forms of bell metal crafts produced in this state contribute to the rich culture and crafts. The crafts vary from diyas, to small figurines, to various deities. Temple decorations such as bells and oil lamps are also created using Bell Metal.
A mixture of wax, groundnut oil and a binding resin is used as the modeling material, for this kind of craft. The number of craftsmen, once famous for their bell metal craft, has reduced from 70 to only a handful making this a unique and exquisite pride of Madhya Pradesh. This state showcases bell metal from toys to huge sculptures, making it a craft depicting simple as well as complex work of arts.
Most commonly bell metal was used for the casting of bells, however, Madhya Pradesh; known for the wonderful craftsmanship has given a new and distinctive image to the bell metal art. This craft is usually done by both men and women. Traditionally, utensils were forged out of a lump of metals on anvils and steel shapers by a team, heating and beating the metal simultaneously. However, as time passed, bell metal was used in making different armor, sculptures, toys and more. Even though this metal cannot be welded because of its complexity and heaviness, the crafts produced out of it are considered to be prized possessions. The uniqueness in the creativity of bell metal crafts exists in Madhya Pradesh as this is one of the few states which have few craftsmen left doing this art.
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