An art that is fading both from the minds of the people and the marketplace
One of the few art forms that had been started from the early ages and is still present, in an evolved version is “Pottery”. In the bookish language, it can be defined as, the delicate art of making pots, dishes and other everyday articles from fired clay.
This art has been practised in India since the 2600 to 1700 BC, that means this art was present even during the Indus Valley civilization. Traces of pottery vessels have even been found during the archaeological excavation at the early human settings Mohenjodaro and Harappa.
The fact that such vessels were present even at the very beginning of our civilization, points out to the fact that clay pottery has been a huge part of the lives of the people both by functioning as a source of livelihood as well as an art that creates useful utensils such as plates, glasses, cups, and even saucepans.
The art of pottery has evolved a lot since its beginning in the Neolithic Age of pottery. During this period the pots and other utensils were all made by hands without the help of the potter’s wheel, and that led it to have a rough exterior. They were made with a mixture of clay, sand and mica and were devoid of any colour and decorations.
During the Indus Valley Civilization, the humans started making instruments to help them in their day to day chores; pottery also saw advancement by the invention of the potter’s wheel. Pottery at that time used to be simple and featured the use of colours such as red, black and green. Also, an interesting fact that popped up after examining various vessels that were excavated was that none of them had handles or spouts. Pottery plaques were also discovered and have been compared to the wooden plaques, that may have been for writing purposes.
As the Civilization moved into the Vedic period, it meant that now the people were being ruled by kings and the entire nation was divided into numerous kingdoms. Hence, the pottery saw a shift from being raw and being used by common people to being sophisticated and for the royalty. This period was ruled by the Painted Grey Ware pottery. The pottery items made were painted grey in colour and were extremely fine in nature. The walls of the pots made could basically be compared to being eggshell thin. Such fine pottery made it evident that there must have been highly specialised craftsmen to make this type of pottery and these may either have been used for religious purposes or for the royalties.
After the system of being ruled by kings and queens ended, our country opened up to the global influence and that was very visible on all the products that were manufactured during that age. The Iron Age culture paved way for the Northern Black Polished Ware pottery; it was seen as a sign of advancement of our country towards urbanisation and the use of iron. The pottery during this age was potted on a fast wheel and was made of fine-grained clay. The black colour achieved by the pots was due to the application of an emulsion of fine clay and plant juice to the dried pots and then being fired again. Large and heavy utensils were not made using this pottery and hence it was mostly intended for the elite of the society.
After the Northern Black Polished Ware pottery came to the Red Polished Ware pottery, this was widely found in Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal. This pottery showcased the influence the Northern Black Polished Ware. It mainly specialised in creating domestic vessels such as cooking pots etc but in certain areas, sprinkler and spouted water jars were also created.
The current era of blue pottery that is popular in Jaipur, has its roots in the Turks Mughal period of pottery. As the Mughal rulers encouraged potters from Persia, Central Asia and the Middle East to come and settle in our land. During this era, painted pottery started trending and is still in use.
The pottery being done over the past few years is known as Terracotta Pottery. The term “Terracotta” refers to “Baked Earth”. This type of pottery is usually used to create flower pots, bricks, roofing tiles etc and is mostly brownish-orange in colour. The products created by terracotta pottery are porous in nature. In the past terracotta was also used to create idols of gods and goddesses for temples as well as for commercial purposes.
The art which had started out of usefulness in order to create vessels of different kinds then turned out to be a source of livelihood, but now this art is diminishing and it would not be long that the few potters left would also diminish, making this delicate art just another part of our history.
Pottery in recent years is facing extreme competition from plastics and metals. Although the urban potters are coming up with modern designs and techniques to still have a place in the market, rural potters are barely able to make a living out of pottery anymore.
Pottery may be a measure of the kind of evolution our country has undergone since the beginning of civilization. As it has changed, in accordance with the change of an era in India. It reflects the influences our culture has had from other cultures and from the various hardships our country has faced. The end of pottery would mark the end of another era in our country’s history.
Pottery, nowadays, it not pursued by anyone as a career or profession but rather as a hobby, something that they can do to, while away their free time. So for those who wish to learn the art of moulding clay to form beautiful objects, there are various places opening up in India where one can explore or visit to get a taste of the art.
This art needs to be propagated amongst the youth and should be given its due respect and importance or else it may die out even sooner than we think.
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