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Indian Pottery
                                                                                                    February 4, 2018


The art of handling of clay called Pottery was one of the earliest skills known to the Indians. From time immemorial, lumps of clay were hand -moulded to form toys and deities of worship. The advent of the Potter’s wheel gave man the task of making beautifully shaped pots for his personal use. The movement of the wheel and the pressure exerted by the hands on the clay gives new shapes and forms.
Pottery is an art that has evolved since time immemorial. The origins of pottery date back to the Neolithic Era; however in India it began with the Indus Valley Civilization and was developed as a response to the needs of mankind.

Unglazed Pottery

Although the art of glazing pottery was known in India from ancient times, the finest pottery in India is of the unglazed variety. This unglazed pottery has a wide range. Very fine paper-thin pottery is produced in Kutch, Kanpur and Alwar. Alwar is known for paper-thin pottery called Kagzi.

There are three different styles in unglazed pottery.
1. Paper thin, biscuit colored pottery with incised patterns.
2. Here the pot is polished, painted with red and white slips into intricate patterns while the outline is incised. The scrafito technique is used here.
3. In this style, highly polished pottery is given strong, deeply incised, stylized patterns of arabesques. The rest of the area is covered with rows of black dots and the contrast in color and texture gives the incised area greater prominence.

Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, Pokhran in Rajasthan, Meerut and Harpur in Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur in Maharastra, Kutch in Gujarat, Jahjjar in Haryana, Birbhum in Bengal and Manipur are famous for their special styles in pottery. Each region has its own specialty.

Kangra is noted for black pottery, which resembles the Harappan pottery style.Pokhran has stylized forms with incised decorative patterns. Kanpur makes thin pottery with incised designs. Meerut and Jhajjar make slim necked water containers called surahis. These are half -turned and half -moulded and have a variety of patterns and designs. Kutch is famous for pots, terracotta horses and elephants.

 The pots are made for different occasions like marriages, death, etc.Nizamabad in Uttar Pradesh is noted for black pottery with silver patterns worked in it. This is similar to the Bidar work of Andhra where oxidized gunmetal is inlaid with silver wire.
Glazed Pottery

In India, the making of Glazed pottery came into being with the advent of the Arab influence in India. Only a few centers in India are known for its production. Glazed pottery with white background and blue and green patterns is developed in Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Khurja, Chunar and Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, and Karigari in Tamilnadu.

Delhi, Khurja and Jaipur are known for the famed Blue Pottery. This does not involve the usage of clay. First, the basic forms are created and then they are painted on the surface.

Ceramic pots of Jaipur put up for sale

Then it is covered with finely ground glass and fired. Jaipur and Delhi follow this method whereas Khurja and Rampur prepare the base from red clay and then fire it.

Marble inlay works

In Chunar, the raised designs in Surahis are adapted for glazed pottery. A brown slip is given finally.In Karigari in Tamilnadu, biscuit ware is created with incised patterns and given a blue or green glaze.

The rural parts of India commonly display terracotta animal figures in places of worship or under the mango or pipal trees in the vicinity of temples. The potters mostly do the terracotta figures. In some parts of Indian villages, the women folk create their own forms of Gods for worship and other decorative pieces for adorning their houses.
In Bihar, Bengal and Gujarat, during festivals, the women prepare clay figures to propitiate their Gods and Goddesses.

The relief- worked plague of Moela in Rajasthan has a distinct style. Here on flat surface local deities are created with moulded clay. They are then fired and then painted brilliant colors.

Terracotta works used for decorations

Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh has villages where clay figures of animals are done. The potter creates the basic form by throwing separate pieces on the wheel and then joining them.

Tanjore doll

Clay toys common in India

Tamilnadu is famous for the terracotta figures of the Aiyanar Deity. The figures are huge and they are found standing guard at the entrances of villages protecting the insiders from evil spirits.Gujarat also has votive figures like horses with riders, etc.

In the year 1398, when India was invaded by Tamur Lane, Sultan Sikander sent his son to pay tribute to the invader. Tamur lane betrayed the agreement of his alliance with the Sultan and made his son a hostage in Samarkhand for seven years. Many craftsmen from Central Asia and Persia had accompanied Tamur Lane to India and were placed in Samarkhand as well.

There this young dynamic Prince saw the strange craft made of paper pulp. He learnt the art and later when he became the king after his father’s death, spread this art among the craftsmen of his region.

A Fish pattern made of Papier Mache

The base of this craft is paper pulp coarsely mashed and mixed with copper sulphate and rice-flour paste. Then moulded by covering the mould with a thin paper and then with layers of this mixture. The designers then sketch the designs intricately and finally it is laquered and polished in bright colors. A touch of golden color is always found on all papier-mache products owing its root to the Persian design.