Pottery is one of the oldest forms of handicrafts in the Indian sub-continent. In fact, it is not so much of an art, as it is, a way of life. Evidence of pottery has been found in the Indus Valley and Harappa Civilizations. However, Indian pottery continues to be a part of our households in the form of pots, pans, jugs, water mugs and so on. The great thing about Indian pottery is that it has been able to balance the artistry with mundane usage. Where on one hand, the skill and style of the pottery handicrafts are a symbol of Indian culture, on the other, the practical use of pottery in our everyday existence is common.
Types of Pottery
Unglazed and glazed are essentially the two distinct types of pottery. Each holds within its fold a variety of handicrafts and pottery making skills, most of which are akin to specific areas and regions of the country. There is also a historical reference and influence on the different types of pottery.
Unglazed pottery is what has been in practice for centuries. Clay and terracotta is the most commonly used material for unglazed pottery in India. The hand or the potter’s wheel is used to mold the clay into different shapes. However, the terracotta creations can also be glazed depending on the kind of usage. For example, glazed terracotta pots are easier to clean and cook food in. On the other hand, the flavor of the food is best sensed in unglazed vessels. The exquisitely made Kagzi or paper-thin pottery from the Kutch region, as well as, pottery of the regions of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, Pokhran in Rajasthan, Birbhum in Bengal, Jahjjar in Haryana, Meerut in UP are all known for their variety of unglazed pottery.
Glazed pottery is believed to be kick started with much fervor during the Mughal era. The white and blue patterns are a trademark of glazed pottery that does not use clay or terracotta as its raw material.
Pottery symbolizes an important tenant of both art and the Indian way of being. The ‘unity in diversity’ tagline holds true for this form of handicraft that has grown both laterally and vertically in its development and spread. Each region or state has a specific set of pottery making that is mastered by its inhabitants. Here is taking a look at the different kinds of pottery handicrafts across the country:
West Bengal Pottery –
The ‘surai’ is one of the well-known makes from Bengal. The jug or surai is not made on the wheel, but four pieces are joined together to form the base. The neck is made on the wheel and then attached. Red polished potteries are mostly found in Bengal. The clay bhars are used for beverages and still used by street stall vendors.
Delhi and Jaipur Pottery –
The popular Blue Pottery is found in Delhi and Jaipur. The base is made from powdered quartz and gum and the final product is semi-transparent and looks in appearance like glass. The Persian influence is visible in its design. The Blue Pottery of Jaipur uses no clay and looks elegant in its blue discernable patterns. The Jaipur pottery is fired once before being used and its impervious nature makes it the most hygienic.
Uttar Pradesh Pottery –
Khurja and Rampur in UP are recognized destinations for pottery. The base of the pot is prepared from red clay and both the places create different versions of blue pottery. The Rampur surais are well-known with their green and blue gazes, whereas, Chunar produces the brown hues of pottery. The other areas within UP that are known for their pottery wares and art are Meerut, Hapur, , whereas, the dark earthen look or black pottery is found in Nizamabad and Azamgarh districts of UP.
Rajasthan Pottery –
The mouths of the pots of Rajasthan are smaller indicating water saving in a state that has scarcity of water. Alwar is where the Kagzi pottery is famous, the paper like thinness of the pots making them special. Bikaner is known for its lac and golden colored pottery wares and Pokhran creates decorative patterns on its creations. The red polished potteries are popular in Rajasthan.
Gujarat Pottery –
The Kutch and Saurashtra region produces splendid handicrafts, one of which also includes pottery. Banaskantha for its decorative pots, Vidi for its white clay pottery and the Saurashtra region known for its Gopichandan, a type of clay that resembles sandalwood are some of the varied pottery styles and types of Gujarat.
Himachal Pradesh Pottery –
Kangra is the leading area in HP that is known for its wonderful pottery. The dark red and black wares are used in homes, as well as, for artistic presence and decorations.
Karnataka Pottery –
Belgaum is where large containers are made for storage.
Tamil Nadu Pottery –
Noted for glazed pottery, Vellore has red and black pottery wares and the Madurai district is known for black pottery with a mix of yellow substances. Tamil Nadu is also famous for its Tanjore Dolls that are figures made from terracotta of the southern deity.
Pottery classes and an enhanced understanding of the art is finding a wide spread audience in its wake. The techniques, method and making differ from region to region and so do the types of the pottery created. But nonetheless pottery remains an important part of the Indian handicrafts, crafted by people who are strewn across various social and cultural dimensions.