Pottery: A Timeless And Diverse Craft Across India
By Sneha Chaudhary
Pottery is an ancient, prominent craft in India; its origins here can be traced back to the earliest times of civilisation. It survived for aeons and is a massive source of employment in both rural and urban areas. As a mass of clay is turned into a pot, those lively eyes look at vigilant hands working relentlessly in unison on the wheel. One who sees it happen sings praise for the mesmerising abilities that these boys, who are considered to be potters, possess.
In India, one such left out community is that of potters. It is the art of carefully moulding clay to make different objects. The sheer hard work they put on and the abilities they develop these very pots through are magnificent. But since most factories are shut down, and most artisans are either idle or paying too little, their destiny appears to be sailing in choppy seas.
India’s Regional Pottery Craft Tradition
- Revisiting Pottery
- Jaipur Blue Pottery, Rajasthan
- Khawda Pottery, Gujrat
- Khurja Pottery, Uttarpradesh
- Longpi Pottery, Manipur
- Black Pottery and Terracotta, Madhya Pradesh
- Andretta Pottery, Himachal Pradesh
One of India’s most timeless living craft traditions is pottery. It is practised across the length and breadth of the nation, from flower pots, terracotta chimes to the thirst-quenching ‘Surahi’ and ‘Matki’. A visit to the rural and “potter villages” speaks volumes about the economic significance of this craft. People use traditional manual potter’s wheels and kilns to engage in it along with subsistence farming, making earthenware an integral part of haat, bazaars and urban market spaces, particularly during the festive season.
Jaipur Blue Pottery, Rajasthan
Jaipur Blue has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. This is a glazed form of pottery that uses a blue glaze and is typical of intricate designs in blue and white. It’s most distinguishing quality is that it is a commodity that is not clay. Mixing ground glass, quartz powder, Earths Fuller’s, borax, gum, soda bicarbonate, and water makes the dough for the It instead of clay.
Khawda Pottery, Gujrat
A traditional art form originated in the village of Khavda, Rann of Kutch, using ‘Rann ki Mitti’. With painted symmetrical black and white patterns, the lovely ochre/group shades give this art form an earthy feel. Allegedly, the special mud with which it is made is acquired from near a lake.
Khurja Pottery, Uttar Pradesh
Khurja is a popular tourist destination in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the colourful pottery it makes. The Khurja, also known as the ‘ceramic city,’ which has a range of tea sets, crockery, and ceramic tile works, is the GI name. The method requires some labour-intensive activities, such as clay churning, moulding, colouring, followed by glazing, among the most common glazed pottery types.
Longpi Pottery, Manipur
Longpi has achieved international popularity due to its rugged design, originating in the Longpi villages of Manipur’s Ukhrul district. The classic black exterior with bamboo/cane woven around handles gives the clay-wares a unique identity, made from black serpentine stone and a form of clay that is found only in this region. Longpi is also microwave-friendly and can be used for baking.
Black Pottery and Terracotta, Madhya Pradesh
The age-old craft of clay and terracotta art is practised even today in its traditional way and with passion. Tribals of Madhya Pradesh region make traditional clay temples called ‘dhabas’ which has a small door where the deity is placed along with the fire lamp (Diya). During Diwali time they make clay idols of the goddess Mahalakshmi, elephants and horses with riders and the local form of Goddess Parvati.
Andretta Pottery, Himachal Pradesh
Andretta from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh has received fame in a small village nestled in the lap of nature. Glazed with fresh shades of blue and green, the Andretta and Crafts Society has made it famous. The colours used are reflective of nature, evergreen woods, and the mountains. The community conducts regular workshops as well.
More eco-friendly use should be encouraged to improve livelihoods and maintain pottery as an art and craft medium, under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goals for sustainable production and use. Similarly, trends such as #PottersKiDiwali, large-scale purchases made by the government and corporate departments, and tax exemptions granted to potters such as the one made on the occasion of Diwali, districts are nurturing pottery as an industry.