The “Lost wax” Technique


Since ancient times India has been a metallurgical giant. During the age of the Indus Valley Civilization(IVC) while the majority of the world was busy hunting and gathering food we had made significant progress in making bronze objects. The availability of abundant metallic resources was of great help to the Indian metallurgical industry. Today also India is one of the largest producers of products made from iron, steel, copper and other metals.

The “lost wax” technique is a craft of making metallic objects with the help of wax, bronze(or any other metal), fire and a mould. This technique originated during the IVC and has still continued to date. Here, we will explore how this technique works. Also, we will look at some of the artefacts made using the method.

What is Lost wax Casting?

The lost wax casting, also known as “Cire Perdue” is an ancient sculpting technique used to make artistic sculptures. Mostly bronze, brass, gold and silver were used as raw materials for the mould. It began about 5000 years ago in India. Later it started developing in other parts of the world like Mesopotamia and Egypt in the 3rd-4th millennium BCE. In spite of its ancient origins, the process involved in this technique has not changed to date. It is still used by various tribes of the country and across the globe to make sculptures and statues. The earliest example of the technique is the Dancing Girl statue of the Harappan civilization.

What is the Lost wax Process Used for?

The lost wax process is used to make various items like sculptures, statues, beads, ornaments, stamps, etc. Apart from the Dancing Girl statue, the following sculptures have been found throughout India made using the same process −

  • Rishabhadeva Bronze statue, Chausa, Bihar

  • Verdigris Peacock oil lamp statue

  • Sultanganj Buddha Statue

  • A number of statues of the Hindu gods like Ganesha, Rama, Krishna, etc have been found

  • Chola bronze art

  • Vijayanagara bronze art

The Dokra Damar tribes of West Bengal and Odisha are the metalsmiths who make large-scale sculptures using the same process. Various accounts of Indian history like Shilpa Shastra(320-550 CE), Vishnusamhita (5th century), Manasollasa (12th century), Silparatna(16rg century ), etc. attest to its heritage.

The Lost wax Casting Process

Over centuries the lost wax technique has evolved a lot but the core of the process still remains intact. The following steps form the core of this ancient art −

  • First, the artist made an image of the desired sculpture. For this, he usually used wax or any other resin-like material.

  • Then the image was covered with clay and allowed to dry. This let the clay take the shape of the wax image.

  • The next process involves heating the clay model. Meanwhile, a hole was made at the bottom and the wax melted out of the sculpture.

  • Now a mould was ready for the sculptor. Then molten metal, usually bronze, gold, copper, silver, etc. was poured into the mould through the hole.

  • The metal was left to cool and solidify. This process helped to give the metal the shape of the mould.

  • Once solidified, the clay was carefully scraped off the cast.

  • Finally, the model was polished and painted according to the need of the consumers.

Images coming soon

Apart from the advances made in the usage of different raw materials, this process has been almost the same for centuries now. Precision-investment casting is one of the most advanced developments made in this technique. However, the Chola empire in the 10th and 11th centuries made significant development in the craft as well.

Advancements Made by Ancient Empires

Mesopotamian empires used the lost wax technique since 3200 BCE. They used it on a small scale to make statues and pendants. A small lion pendant from Uruk IV is one of the oldest surviving artefacts. Post the Harappan Age this process spread to other parts of India like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Maharashtra, etc.

Some Hellenistic ornaments were also made using this technique. For example- from Taxila, the figure of Harpocrates has been excavated. Gupta period artefacts have been discovered at Sarnath, Barmar, Akota, Balaighat, etc. Apart from the beautiful ornaments and sculptures, this technique was also used to produce some utility items like beads, weights, miniature goods, etc.

The Chola empire however made some of the most sought-after carvings using the lost wax process. They are one of the favourites among the collectibles across India and overseas. Some of the most prominent examples are the Panchaloka statue, the Statue of Rajaraja Chola at Brihadeshwara temple, the Rishabaandhika, and the Nataraja statue.

A Gift by Prime Minister Modi at the G7 Summit

The G7 nations are the USA, UK, Italy, France, Canada, and Japan. India was invited as a guest to the summit in Germany. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted beautiful Indian artefacts to the leaders of the G7 countries. This included a Ramayana Theme Dokra Art to the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. As mentioned earlier Dokra Art majorly originates from West Bengal and spreads to most of eastern India as well. The casting gifted to President Cyril Ramaphose was made in the Chattisgarh region. It also involves the most basic form of a lost wax technique known for 5000 years.


The lost wax technique unlike most human inventions has withstood the brunt of time. It is a testimony to the advancement made by the Indus people. However, the later empires like the Guptas, Cholas, and Vijayanagara empires did a commendable job in preserving the originality of the craft. Over the years it has seen its fair share of modifications as well. Like the use of other resins instead of wax, the use of metals like gold and silver, and the use of other materials for the mold instead of clay.

The lost wax technique is one of the last few living traditions that remind us of our ancient civilizations. Therefore the government needs to do everything to promote and protect this craft for generations to come.


Q1. What are the threats faced by the lost wax technique craftsmen?

Ans. Since the craft in itself is dependent on nature the majority of its raw materials mike was, clay, and bronze. This makes it vulnerable to deforestation and a threat to the availability of resources.

Q2. What was the main occupation of the Indus Valley Civilization?

Ans. The main occupation of the Indus people was still agriculture. But surplus agriculture allowed people to explore other occupations like tin- smithery, traders, bead processing, etc.

Q3. Was there any contact between the Mesopotamian empires with India?

Ans. Yes, Indians had deep economic and cultural relations with the Mesopotamians. There was large-scale trade between the two empires.

Q4. What is the evidence of the relations between the Indus Valley Civilization and the Mesopotamian civilization?

Ans. Beads, artefacts, weights, sculptures, terracotta toys, etc. of the Harappan civilization have been excavated from the Mesopotamian sites in decent numbers. And Mesopotamian artefacts have also been discovered in the Indian subcontinent.

Q5. What was the economic situation of the Chola empire?

Ans. The Chola empire from 850 AD to 1279 AD was one of the dominant and prosperous regions of Southern India. They depended largely on agriculture but also had large-scale trade relations with South-East Asian nations.

Updated on: 21-Dec-2022


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