Clay Connection: A day in the life of a potter

The excitement in Ramzan's eyes while he shows how to mold an earthen lamp, surahi, tea cup and piggy-bank is no less than a child's, showing his newly-made painting.

Do we still crave for the water from surahi to satisfy our thirst which would not only please our taste buds but the moderate cool temperature kept in the earthen pitcher would be healthy for the body, too? Does the tendency to save penny by penny in the earthen piggy-banks after returning from grandparents' place still remain among the children of today? Or does the taste and aroma of kulhad (tea-cup) full of chai on rainy evenings seem to be endangered in this urbanizing scenario?

With decreased usage and circulation of the pottery and clay made vessels we seem to move distant from our roots for the sake of development and modernization. Meanwhile, the usage of clay pots and ceramics tends to be limited to rituals and festivals only, resulting in a dramatic challenge for the livelihoods of the potters.



On visiting Lucknow district to understand the lives of potters, Gaon Connection team found that in most of the villages, potters' wheels have stopped rotating. At some places, the pottery wheels were found lying in the backyards while at others, they have been sent to rest in the storerooms of the potters' house. The wheels were found neglected by the potters alike the pots by us.

"Every member of the family, who is above ten, contributes their bit in this work, be that bringing the soil from the nearby pond, mixing and cleaning it and finally molding the pot out of it, to drying them in the sun and cooking in the furnace to give the final touch. It is teamwork and this is the daily routine of our entire family," Ramzan, who is into pottery for generations, said, while his muddy fingers were busy synchronizing with the speed of wheel to carve the perfect shape of kalash.

58-year-old Ramzan lives in village Bana (Mampur) of Lucknow district with his sons, daughters-in-law and their children.

Also Read: A day in the life of a Bagpiper

The excitement in Ramzan's eyes while he shows how to mold a diya (earthen lamp), surahi (earthen vessel), kulhad, kalash (spherical vessel) and gullak (piggy-bank) is no less than a child's, showing his newly-made painting. Ramzan makes clay objects without an electronic wheel. He also talks about the modern-day pottery and how difficult it has become for him to reap benefits from the traditional pottery even in the decreased demand rates.

Akrariya Kala, located in the Lucknow sub area, is another village which has been home to potters.

Junglee, who does his business in the city, had left his ancestral work of pottery about a decade ago. Junglee says, "It was a really hard-working task to earn bread and butter from. Those days were still better when my father used to do pottery. We would get the good number of orders for making the clay objects before marriages and festivals. But eventually, the fiber-made products have taken over in the market. We also prefer buying fiber plates and glasses during the weddings and festivals because those are cheaper."


The increased usage of refrigerators has also contributed to putting down the potters' business. "In villages, it has been a tradition to buy pots to store water, yogurt and other edibles during summers which would get them some seasonal business but now most of the people have brought refrigerators and the demand for clay pots has fallen drastically. Some potters still work as wholesalers while others, the poor ones, work as retailers in the market," Junglee added.

There are many villages across the country, owning the pride of this art with their neglected artisans who live their lives in the clay and bring out the best from it. With the advent of plastic made vessels and refrigerators, potters are proving to be a community almost forgotten, unemployed and less paid.

However, the modern-pottery, today, in the form of terracotta is not confined to mere pot-making but has its fame worldwide as a unique form of art and craft.

KNOW ABOUT THE POTTERY

It is a wonderful yet challenging skill of making clay objects by hands or wheels. Holding an important place in the chapters of archaeology and social anthropology, the actual time of origin of pottery is still a debate. Some studies suggest the existence of this art before or around 2500BC in various parts of the world. The tradition of pottery is as old as Adam and Eve, which has progressed with time, through culture and civilisation. And when we talk about India, pottery is believed to be a beautiful fusion of good omen and traditions of wide dimension. Be that the blue-pottery of Jaipur, Khurja of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthani and Gujarati pottery or the mesmerizing black-red pottery of Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), India definitely has something sacred about all of these.






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