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Indian Crafts >> Terracotta Craft
Terracotta Craft
History of Terracotta Craft

Rajasthan terracotta tradition, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization, continues today in all parts of the state. The plaques of Molela (a small town near Udaipur) are a must buy. The pottery has had a long - standing tradition in Rajasthan. Each village or group of villages had potters making unglazed pottery for local use.

In Madhya Pradesh two - fold division of potters, i.e., those who work on chakraiyas (wheel) and those who model by hand (hathraiyas) are said to have originated long ago when a potter used his hand to model a pot meant for a sacred yagya or sacrifice. But due to the ritual pollution incurred on the pot the sacrifice was unsuccessful and the gods were compelled to ask the Chakraiya to model.

The terracotta art with its long and continuous history of the preceding centuries has imbibed such ideals which are based upon a thorough & explicit understanding of the human form. The ponderous ornaments of the Sunga - Kushana figurines became lean and delicate in the hands of the sculptors of the Gupta period. The delicate quality of human form, however, is much reflected in the various figurines of this age. In the riparian land of Bengal terracotta is the most suitable and convenient material for decorating the exterior walls of such architecture. The material prosperity of Bengal accrued from this trade has its confirmation in the discovery of imperial Kushana. A school of terracotta art developed under this favorable condition of the Sunga - Kushana epoch. The high degree of sophistication exhibited by the terracottas of this period was inevitable. Terracottas of Bengal not only depict motifs & annals of the past but also emphasise upon the chic beauty and the grandeur of the celestial world.

Clay craft is probably the earliest of mans creations and marks his coming of age. It is as though as man faced nature he was stirred by its challenge. Moulded out of the earth himself he wanted to extend the boundaries of his material existence to give expression to his creative spirit. So he took the earth in his hands and began to fashion a whole new world of infinite shapes of grace and elegance.

In Assam, there are two communities of potters, Hira and Kumar. The Hiras manufacture household articles, using the compression method while the kumars use the potters wheel and make images for worship, clay dolls & toys.

Nearly five millenia later, India is still rich in her terracotta and pottery traditions many of which have their roots in prehistory. This craft came via Persia, when Mongal chengiz Khan had conquered china in AD 1212.There are numerous references to earthenware especially painted pottery and terracotta figures, in the archaeological findings of the pre - Harappan , Harappan and post - Harappan periods.

Pottery has a wide universality and its tradition goes back to span of five millenium. This craft came via Persia, when Mongal king Chengiz Khan had conquered China in AD 1212. The main concentration of the craft is in the sub divisions of Kailasahar Sadar (Golbazar) and Soonamurah.
Fine Art
The articles made include plates, flower vases, surahis, trays, coasters, fruit bowls and glazed tiles with hand - painted, floral designs.Nohar, Bharatpur and Bikaner are the centres where pottery is painted with lac colours.

The production of toys synchronizes with the Pora festival celebrated in almost all parts of the state. On the first day of the festival - the amavasya of Bhadrapad Masa - the tribal people worship terracotta bulls, tigers, elephants and horses, sometimes with one or a pair of matas as riders - to the goddess whom they worship for wealth, health and prosperity and for protection from evil spirits.

The themes and subjects introduced in terracotta art of Bengal are remarkable for their variety. This represent the manifold affairs of life. They not only reflect the picture of day to day life but also the life that assures peace and realization.

Terracotta pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts because of its irresistible appeal. A variety of earthen objects are created such as lamps, pitchers, flower vases, pots, musical instruments, candle stands etc.

Kamrup in West Assam has long been proficient in the terracotta craft, which includes clay tiles. Asharkandi, a village in Goalpara District is famous for its graceful clay dolls. Goalpara produces a startling range of votive terracotta figures, ritual & secular utility objects also.

In Chairan, Shangmai and Thongiao villages of Thoubal district and Andro in Imphal (East), women potters practice a unique hand modeling technique, probably dialing back to earlier than Neolithic times before the invention of the wheel. The products made are surface of plain pots, water filters, vases, incense burners, lamps and hukkas.

Terracotta articles, including toys are produced as ritual items for decoration and for utility through out the state. The other crafts made are incense burners, toys , dolls and figurines etc.
Procedure
The shapes which are required for a variety of uses are turned on the wheel. The certain portions such as the spout or the handle are left out. They are casted separately and than attached to the body. After it, the decoration is done by incising patterns on the surface for making geometrical patterns.

The clay mixed with ash and sand is kneaded by feet, collected and cut with lahasur. It is then kneaded with hand, on peeda and a lump is made. All the solid particles are removed. The ready clay is kept on wheel for making various forms. A potters wheel has short sports, turns on a pivot of hard wood or metal and is provided with a large hub which acts as a revolving table. A vertical stick is inserted in the hole in the rim. The potter throws the kneaded clay into the centre of the wheel, and spins the wheel around with the stick. Due to the centrifugal force the lump of clay is pulled outwards and upwards and shaped into a vessel. This is pulled out with a string, dried and fired in a potters kiln.Clay article after firing turns to terracotta.

The pots are fired in simple open-pit kilns that are very efficient and inexpensive for firing pots at a temperature of 700 - 800 degree Celsius. The pots are arranged in layers of pots, a layer of leaves, twigs and cow dung cake is some times added. The mound is then covered with a blanket of rice straw which, in turn is covered with a thin layer of loamy soil. The firing takes four to five hours.

Black, red and yellow clay are used for making terracotta items, which are collected in the form of small pieces from Rajasthan and Delhi. The material is mixed properly and dried under the hot sun so that any sort of moisture, if present, may evaporate. Then the mixture of wet clay is filtered through a fine sieve to remove pebble. After giving shape with hands the items are then baked in the improvisede kilns covered with cow dung cakes, fuel and saw dust etc.

The clay, mixed with ash and sand is kneaded by feet. Then it is kneaded with hand on peeda & a lump is made. All the solid particles like gravel, small pebbles, twigs etc. are removed. The ready clay is kept on wheel to make various forms. A potters wheel has soft spokes, turns on a pivot of hard wood or metal and is provided with a large hub, which acts as revolving table. A vertical stick is inserted in the hole in the rim. The potter throws the kneaded clay into the centre of the wheel and spins the wheel around with a stick. Due to the centrifugal force the lump of clay is pulled outwards & upwards and shaped into a vessel. This is pulled out with a string, dried and fired in a potters kiln. Clay article after firing turns to terracotta.

In this process, the potter begins with a slab or band of clay mixed with sand that is folded into a cylinder to which the base is added. It is then placed on the lepshun cylindrical platform, usually the trunk of a tree, as high as the potters knee. A piece of thick wet cloth or phunanphadi is wrapped around the open rim while the crafts women, holding it with both hands, circumambulates in the manner of the wheel till the collar is smoothly formed. After it she beats the pot with a wooden beater or phuzei using a stone anvil till it expands into shape with the requisite thickness of the walls. The oar shaped beater is carved on one side with shallow criss - cross or linear patterns which give the pots their characteristic embossed or basketry look. When semi dry, the surface of pots are tediously burnished with kanghil, the seed of a wild creeper, giving them their varnished appearance. Firing turns the shining black clay, believed to obtain traces of iron, into a splendid lustrous orange for a completely black finish the object is smoked in a sealed vessel.

The clay mixed with ash and sand is kneaded by feet, collected and cut with lahasur. It is then kneaded with hand on peeda and a lump is made. All the solid particles are removed. The ready clay is kept on wheel to make various forms. A potters wheel has short spokes, turns on a pivot of hard wood or metal and is provided with a large hub which acts as a revolving table. A vertical stick is inserted in the hole in the rim. The potter throws the kneaded clay into the centre of the wheel and spins the wheel around with a stick. Due to the centrifugal force, the lump of clay is pulled outwards and upwards and shaped into a vessel. This is pulled out with a string, dried in the potters kiln. Clay article after firing turns to terracotta.
Resources
Basic Material : Red clay
Colouring Material : colours

Basic Material : Mitti / clay, mustard oil, potter wheel, gum, starch, wax
Decorative Material : Pond clay, sand, ash, red ochre solution

Basic Material : Clay, potters wheel, twigs, dry branches, leaves, firewood, rice straw

Basic Material : Red clay, black clay, pilli mitti, yellow clay

Basic Material : Various types of Mitti (clay/mud), edible gum, starch, clay, wax
Decorative Material : ash, sand, cow-dung, rice husk

Basic Material : Clay, sand, phunanphadi (wet cloth), phuzei (wooden beater), kangkhil, sealed vessel slab, lepshum (cylindrical platform)

Basic Material : Plastic clay mitti, mustard oil, potters wheel, edible gum, starch, feldspar, clay, wax
Decorative Material : ash, sand
Equipments
potter wheel

Chak (potter wheel), thread for cutting, chini knife, wooden plank, feldspar





Chak (Potters wheel), Peeda (wooden plank)



Chak, chewan (thread for cutting), peeda (wooden plank), Chini knife
Artifacts
Plates, flower pots, vases, surahis (small pitcher), trays, Coasters, fruit bowls, glazed tiles, red clay, potters wheel, colours.

Pots, containers, figurines, toys, terracotta bulls, tigers, elephants, and horses with one or a pair of matas as riders, serpents, birds

Divinities including Nagas & Naginis, Yakshas & Yakshis, Apsaras, Kinnaras, Vyantara Devatas, toys, animal figures, Buddhist Jatakas, erotic motifs, motifs of animals, birds & plants, seals & sealings, decoration motifs on pottery

lamps, pitchers, flower vases, pots, musical instruments, toys, human & animal figures, plaques, medallions, wall panels and candle stands

vessel for storing grains, water pots, chaupatia , vessel for churning curd handi, surahi, pots, Images of gods & goddesses, dolls & toys

pots, water filters, vases, incense burners, amps, hukkash

toys, ritual items, incense burners, dolls, figurines

Indian Crafts : History of Terracotta Craft