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When man came to know the beauty of a pot thrown on the wheel and its decoration, pottery took on a new meaning for him

Civilisation Began with Pottery

Among the various media chosen by man for expressing his joy through art, music or literature, the simplest has been soft and malleable clay. Nimble fingers mould the most beautiful form and expression. Clay is such a fascinating medium that if a lump of it is given to a child, he instinctively creates things out of it.

Pottery is the measure of a country's civilization. Being one of the oldest crafts, man has expressed his feelings and his aesthetics in clay. A piece of pottery has a visual message in its shape and colour. It is the most sensual of all arts. It is not only to be looked at, but also to be handled carefully.

No wonder then that pottery has been called the lyric of handicrafts. Lyrical because of its irresistible and universal appeal. But, it is the association of religion with this art that has given it a deeper significance and another dimension too.

In a warm country like India, with the economy built on agriculture, pots for storage of water and grain were in demand. The Indus valley pottery was mostly decorative. The combination of design, concept and execution made it beautiful.


The evolution of Indian ceramics began with the Harappan age and the art of shaping and baking clay articles as pottery, earthenware and porcelain has endured through the ages. While pottery and earthenware are distinctly utilitarian and often decorative, porcelain and studio pottery belong to the realm of art. Except for a few examples of Indian ceramics, which have been produced from a single mould, most of it is completely hand-modeled, a tradition carried over to the 20th century.

There is evidence of pottery making, both handmade and wheel-thrown, from all over India. At Harappa and Mohenjodaro, pottery has been excavated showing that potter's place was quite an important one in society. The craft was well advanced. Rectangular kilns for firing the product were in use. Seals and grain and water containers were made that were put to use effectively.

The place of the potter in the craft tradition of India is unique. India has more than a million potters. They are exquisite masters - men and women alike. Despite the hi-tech that has invaded the Indian scenario, it is doubtful if it will ever destroy the potter's inherent creativity. Hopefully, new generations will perceive the worth of pottery.


Legends reveal that Brahma created man out of clay. The same thing reflects when a potter creates so many pots and toys out of it. Hence, the name Prajapati is given to a potter in India.


Ceramics-the art of shaping and baking clay articles as pottery, earthenware and porcelain has today become a sophisticated art form. Its popularity can be vouchsafed from the numerous categories and types one finds all over India.


India is diverse in many aspects. And one can easily find this diversity in profusion in the domestic pottery that is found in innumerable shapes and sizes. This aspect is almost inseparable from any Indian scene.

The common earthenware is unsophisticated. The shapes are natural, simple but attractive and true to the material. In India, the emphasis has been on the chasteness of the line to lend dignity to the form. Above all, it has to be superbly functional.

The most common clay object is the all-purpose kullar (cup-like container) used for keeping water or tea and is sometimes decorated with geometrical and floral designs. Pottery used for festive purposes is particularly gay. The ones used for storing grain or water is huge.

There are immense variety of objects specially produced for the occasion like lamps for Diwali, toys for Dussehra, pots for seedling at Sankranti and the gaily-painted pots for marriages.

Common pottery comes in a bewildering profusion. Being functional, each has a special use. The differences between two pots, which superficially look alike, are subtle.

Besides their normal use, some products are also used for decoration as well. These are generally made with special attention by putting intricate designs (Karigari) on it. These are termed as Karigari pottery. Ashtrays, flower-vases, tea sets, paperweights, decorative animal figures are a few examples of Karigari pottery.


The capital city of Delhi is famous for its characteristic 'Blue' pottery. It has a very old tradition, which is very distinctive. This particular art form has been named as blue pottery because of the eye-catching Persian blue dye used to color the clay. Blue pottery is glazed and high-fired which makes it tougher than most of the others.

The Jaipur blue pottery is equally famous and unique. No cracks develop in it and since it is impervious, it is more hygienic for daily use. Some of this pottery is semi-transparent and mostly decorated with animal and bird motifs. These pottery items, unlike that of Delhi are made out of Egyptian paste, and fired at very low temperature. This makes them fragile though few can resist the charm of the delicate blue and white floral motifs. The range of items is primarily decorative such as ashtrays, vases, coasters, small bowls and boxes for trinkets.


Despite the paramount role played by domestic earthenware, it is its religious association that gives it a far wider dimension. Each region, each village has a galaxy of deities to be worshiped on special occasions. Clay being at hand and comparatively inexpensive, it is not surprising that such a vast amount of religious earthenware gets proliferated in this field. These are classified under three heads: (a) figurines of divinities (b) ceremonial pottery and (c) votive offerings. In the first, Ganesh is the most popular god - the god of omen. Durga at Dussehra time and Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning are nationally worshiped. Festivals related to these deities give the potter a motivation to work on the fine art, as his creation is in high demand during those days.

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