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7 Beautiful Pottery Traditions in India

India is a country with a huge population of talented artisans and skilled handicraft workers. Each region has its distinct handicrafts market. For instance, Kashmir is famous for the Pashmina shawl, Maharashtra for the Kolhapuri chappal, and Hyderabad for its precious hand-woven pearl necklaces. However, several handicraft practices are common in many states, such as basket making, carpet weaving, embroidery, and perhaps the most ancient of them, pottery.

Human civilizations have used pottery as an expression of art since ancient times.

Human civilizations have used pottery as an expression of art since ancient times. The earliest form of clay-moulding and pottery was practiced in China about 20,000 years ago. Pottery in India has been practiced for quite a long time too. The earliest form of pottery making in India dates back to the Indus valley civilization. The Harappan people made pots and pans out of finely baked red clay. These vessels were decorated with motifs of animals, plants, and other elements. Such patterns continue to appear on contemporary forms of Indian pottery too.


However, with a rapid decline of the handicraft industry (due to the onset of mechanized production), pottery making has become a rare art. This article will describe some of the rarest pottery traditions in India that continue to survive in small pockets of the country.


1. Jaipur Blue Pottery

Blue pottery is strongly influenced by Turkish-Persian crafts.

This form of pottery is strongly influenced by Turkish-Persian crafts. Turks and Persian travellers introduced blue pottery designs to India, and later, this pottery was commonly used in Mughal palaces. Jaipur blue pottery is unique because it is not made out of clay. Instead, the potter uses finely powdered grains of quartz, glass, water, borax, and Multani mitti to mould the pot.

Blue pottery items are extremely delicate because of the low glazing temperature they are subjected to. Even though shades of blue mostly dominate the designs and patterns of such pottery, sometimes green, yellow, brown, and white are also used to make motifs.


Conventionally, blue pottery was used to make vases, pots, pitchers, and urns. However, in recent years, due to rapid commercialization and a rise in demand, artisans make cups, saucers, plates, spoons, bowls, and other cutlery items from blue pottery.


2. Khavda Pottery

Khavda pottery-making is unique to the Kutch region of Gujarat.

Khavda pottery-making is unique to the Kutch region of Gujarat. Pots and pans made during the Harappan civilization serve as a huge inspiration for the Khavda style. The mud/clay for this form of pottery is obtained from a particular lake found near Khavda in Gujarat and is popularly referred to as “Rann ki mitti”. Once a Khavda potter moulds the clay into the shape he desires, the item is left out to dry in the Sun. After a couple of days, when the pots take shape and become hard, the women of the potter household use natural colours to decorate the item. Intricate designs and patterns made out of red, black, and white clay colours are used to embellish the moulded items. Thereafter, the pots are placed in the Sun again and then baked in a furnace. Using Khavda pottery, potters of the Kutch region make pots, pans, vases, plates, jars, bowls, and other decorative pieces.

3. Longpi Pottery

Longpi pottery is a widely practiced form of tribal art in Manipur.

Longpi (Nungpi) pottery is a widely practiced form of tribal art in Manipur. This style of pottery is different from any other found in India because items are prepared without using the potter’s wheel. Male members of the Tangkhul tribe mould black rock and clay together to form a variety of carefully crafted handmade items. Since items are predominantly made out of black clay, pots and pans are dark brown/black in colour. Unlike any other pottery forms mentioned in this article, Longpi pottery is devoid of any embellishment or colour on its surface. It is mainly used by the Tangkhul tribe to make vessels and utensils for daily use. Therefore, items made using Longpi pottery include cookers, water heaters, cups, pans, and containers. Due to its popularity, Longpi Pottery has found a growing consumer base outside Manipur as well.

4. Molela Murtikala

Molela is the name of a region in Rajasthan, widely known for its clay idol production.

Molela is the name of a region in Rajasthan, widely known for its clay idol production. Murtikala, which roughly translates to the art of making idols, is an artistic practice prevalent in this area. Deities in temples and carvings on local shrines are made using this form of clay-moulding. Murti Kala artisans use the red clay found near Rajasthan's small ponds to carve idols. Natural items such as the husk of rice and the dung of animals are mixed with the wet red mud to make it harden.

During winter, handicraft artists and skilled workers begin the process of carving idols on small blocks of clay. Before the murtis can be used to decorate the temple’s exteriors or placed within it, the artisans add a natural red colour to it. Later, they may also choose to colour the murti using vibrant watercolours.


5. Bidriware pottery

Bidriware pottery is a form of art that originated in Karnataka during the rule of the Bahamani Sultans.

Bidriware pottery is a form of art that originated in Karnataka during the rule of the Bahamani Sultans. The clay for Bidriware pottery comes from the soil of the Bidar fort. This soil is then shaped into different items, the surface of which is thinly layered with small quantities of iron, silver, copper, tin, and zinc. During the time of the Sultans, buying and using Bidriware was considered to be a sign of wealth and affluence. Unfortunately, today, Bidriware pottery production has declined significantly.


6. West Bengal Terracotta pottery

Clay for West Bengal terracotta pottery is derived from two or three lakes/ponds in and around the region where the pottery is being manufactured.

Clay for West Bengal terracotta pottery is derived from two or three lakes/ponds in and around the region where the pottery is being manufactured. The clays acquired are then mixed together and different items are made on the wheel. However, items are not entirely made on the wheel, only some parts of a vessel are spun on the wheel, and others are crafted by hand using iron tools. The moulded clay is then heated to high temperatures in order to let the clay harden and the item takes shape. Finally, women from the potter’s family decorate the vessels by painting them with images of deities and other designs.


7. Black Clay Pottery

Black clay pottery is exclusively made in the region of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

Black clay pottery is exclusively made in the region of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. It uses special soil found only in the Nizamabad area. In addition to black clay, the soil contains small quantities of zinc and tin which give it its black colour. Once the vessels are made on the potter’s wheel, they are embellished with intricate silver-coloured design patterns. Vessels made using this technique cater to both, daily use and decorative purposes. Artisans also mould the clay to form the shapes of local deities and gods.

Even though India is famous for its varied forms of pottery and clay-moulding, it is an inexplicable fact that India’s handicraft market is dying. Due to low demand for handmade products and the rising demand for cheap, machine-manufactured items, Indian pottery has lost its huge demand. Hence, a majority of artisans working in the pottery sector have been forced to abandon their primary profession and rather, work as peasants and farmers.


For artisans and other handicraft workers who indulge in pottery making, it is not merely an activity that pays but one that provides them an opportunity to showcase their talents and express their artistic capabilities. Before one turns to buy expensive Chinaware or delicate Egyptian terracotta, one must strive to know more about these beautiful and rare Indian pottery forms and perhaps, buy them to sustain artisans and dying Indian arts.


Prerana Thakur is a content writer at Pratha.

Author

Prerana Thakur

Pratha Content Writer

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