From Jaipur’s Blue Pottery to Karnataka’s Metal Crafts, 8 Stunning Pottery Traditions

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Ddid you know that each region of India has its own style of pottery? With unique designs and handicrafts, serving both utility and decoration, they are often an important source of income for several artisans and are symbols of tradition and ethnicity.

Over the centuries, pottery has continued to evolve both as a craft and as an art.

So, here is a look at some of the famous pottery traditions that have been practiced across India:

1. Blue pottery from Jaipur, Rajasthan

Widely recognized as a traditional craft of Jaipur, blue pottery has its origins in the Turkish-Persian style.

The name blue pottery is derived from the attractive cobalt blue dye used to color pottery. It is made from Egyptian paste and paste obtained by mixing quartz stone powder, powdered glass, Multani Mitti, borax, gum and water. It does not use clay and is glazed and fired at very low temperatures, which makes them fragile and brittle.

The product range is mainly decorative like vases, coasters, bowls, trinket boxes, etc. These pottery items are mostly decorated with animal and bird motifs.

The color palette is still limited to blue derived from cobalt oxide, green from copper oxide, and white, although other unconventional colors, such as yellow and brown, are sometimes included.

2. Khurja Pottery, Uttar Pradesh

Khurja pottery

Khurja pottery, a traditional pottery from Khurja in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, is believed to have existed for over 500 years. Colorful and elegant, the history of Khurja pottery is said to have begun when Afghan King Timur accompanied Egyptian and Syrian potters on his campaign in the Khurja region more than five centuries ago.

This traditional pottery known for its beautiful patterns and timeless appeal features exotic floral designs that are painted in soothing shades of blue and brown on an off-white background. Also, a thick engobe is used to enhance certain patterns to create a three-dimensional effect. Over time, more colors were included such as warm orange and light red glazes.

3. Khavda Pottery, Gujarat

Pottery of Khavda

The art of Khavda pottery is believed to have begun during the Indus Valley Civilization in the region of present-day Kutch. Khavda – a small village in Bhuj, Gujarat – artisans have been making earthen pots for generations, making a wide variety of vessels, such as matka for storing water, plates, diyas, boxes, ketli and kulhada for storing buttermilk and more.

Khavda potters only use mud from a lake near the village, known as “Rann ka mitti”. The soft clay is then used to shape a pot using a potter’s wheel and dried. It is the women of the pottery community who decorate each piece using red, black and white clay paints with distinct patterns specific to the community.

Later, the pot is cleaned, sun-dried and then fired in a kiln, after which the vessels are coated with a fine geru (red color), a type of ground (ochre/shade).

4. Andretta Pottery, Himachal

Andretta Pottery

Andretta is a small artists’ village near Palampur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, which was started by an Irish theater artist and environmentalist called Norah Richards, who lived there during the partition.

In 1983, the son of famous potter Sardar Gurcharan Singh, Mini established Andretta Pottery and Craft Society in Himachal.

They make products mainly for tableware utility, like mugs, bowls, plates and so on at the studio. All in natural terracotta, even the glazes used are food safe. They also use slip or design methods where diluted clay is used to create patterns on the surfaces. The designs they create are derived from the rangoli designs of Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.

5. Bankura Pottery, West Bengal

Bankura pottery

Kumbhakar potters from Panchmura village in Bankura district of West Bengal are known for making their earthenware products. For centuries, together, the craftsmen of this region have developed this art. But they are particularly known for making the Bankura horse, which has been internationally recognized for its elegance and unique charm.

Originally used for village rituals, the Bankura horse is now adorned as a decorative piece across the world as well as a symbol of Indian folk art and is even the official crest design of the All India Handicrafts Board. .

Panchmura, Rajagram, Sonamukhi and Hamirpur in Bankura district are the places where terracotta horses and elephants are mainly produced. Although each of these places has its own local style, Panchmura style pottery is considered the best and finest of the four types.

6. Longpi Pottery, Manipur

Longpi pottery

Longpi is a general reference to two villages, namely Longpi Kajui and Longpi Khullen in Ukhrul district of Manipur. The name ‘Longpi’ means ‘group lodge’ in the Tangkhul dialect.

For centuries, Longpi has been famous for making ancient pottery, locally called Longpi Ham. It is known that the Longi ham was the main cooking utensil of the Tangkhuls before the aluminum cooking pots.

Due to its intricate designs and the technology used to produce them, Longpi pottery has also risen to prominence in international markets.

This traditional pottery is unique because the artisans do not use a potter’s wheel and are made from a mixed paste of ground black serpentinite stone and a special brown clay. It has been claimed by locals that the clay originated from Longpi village alone.

There is no use of chemicals or machinery involved in the making of this pottery. Therefore, they are considered very hygienic and are believed to have several medicinal values.

7. Bidriware, Karnataka

Bidriware

Bidriware is an art of metal craftsmanship that originated in the 14th century in Karnataka during the reign of the Bahamian sultans. The name “Bidriware” comes from the region where it is mainly practiced – Bidar in Karnataka.

It is believed that this art form was first practiced in Persia and was brought to India by the followers of Sufi Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti. Thus Bidriware was developed as an art form having Turkish, Persian and Arabic influences.

Artisans use a mixture of zinc, copper and silver to develop unique artifacts and products. It is a family heritage that has been taught and passed on to generations over time in Bidar.

Bright and shiny handicrafts are considered a rich symbol of wealth and decoration.

8. Molela Murtikala, Rajasthan

Molella Murtikala

Mollela Murtikala is a clay craft of making murtis or idols of gods with terracotta, practiced in the Molela village of Rajasthan.
Like most crafts, Murtikala has been passed down from generation to generation, by the sons of the family. While murtis were originally standing idols of local deities and various forms of Lord Vishnu, today they are often mounted on tiles or plaques and hang on the walls of temples and houses.

These murtis can be multicolored or have a terracotta hue, as can be seen in various temples in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Also, groups of tribal communities from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh visit Mollela every year to buy the terracotta plates. It is ritual, as they are accompanied by a priest, and they usually focus on acquiring plaques representing the Devnarayan and Nagaraja deities.

Potters prefer to use the mild winter sun to dry the clay and, in addition to meeting religious requirements, also mold scenes depicting the landscape around them.

Sources:

Himachal’s secret pot – it’s not what you think by Times of India, published January 10, 2017.
Molela: Rajasthani terracotta slab art patronized by the Bhil, Mina and Garasiya tribal communities.
Bankura horses and terracotta crafts from Panchmura, West Bengal.
Govt. from Manipur.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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