Behind the superb metal cast images of the tribal deities of Bastar,Chattisgarh lies a rich world of myth and legend.
Metal casting or Gadwakam is an ancient art of casting in India in which intricate design work retains its delicacies of form, line and modulation. The craft of casting metal by the lost wax process is called cire perdue in the West. The statue of a dancing girl, unearthed at Mohenjodaro dated around third millenium B.C. with its intricate and elegant carving, shows that the cire perdue process was already perfected. This technique practised in India from the prehistoric age still survives and is used for making religious images, ritualistic items and objects of utility.
Skillful control of a demanding medium and dexterity in fashioning icons for worship, ornaments and articles of daily use make Gadwakam a unique craft of India. This craft include sculptures of the Mahua tree, the Karma tree, of local devis like Dhanteshwaridevi, Moulidevi, Pardesin Matadevi, or village folk, musical instruments, ornaments, oil lamps, household utensils and measures.
The journey that a piece goes through before it emerges in its final form is an extraordinary one. A clay model is first set up and on this, a wax lining is placed and it is on this wax layer that the intricate designs are done by the artists with proficient skill. Another coating of clay with an opening at the bottom is laid over the wax. When the outer-shell is dry and hard, fire is lit around it so that the wax melts and flows out through it. Into this empty space is poured the molten metal. When cool the outer layer is removed and the metal emerges in all its beauty.
Brass and Bronze are the metals predominantly used. An interesting characteristic of Bastar art is the abstract figures with long hands as well as their tribal Gods and Godesses.