Is it sunset for ancient art of pottery making?

The alluring art of pottery making, like all handicrafts and crafts, has always been an essential part of our socio-cultural heritage. For thousands of years, pottery art has been one of the most beautiful forms of expression.

A piece of pottery has a visual message in its shape and colour. Indeed, one can go as far as to say that the ancient pottery of a country speaks volumes about its civilisation and heritage.

For most of us, it is the love for history, the colour and beauty of the creation that attracts us to purchase and showcase some clay pots in our homes. However, the situation of artisans, who have dedicated their entire life to this craft, sadly seems to be on a decline.

Once a thriving cottage industry, today the art of pottery-making is on the throes of death. The reason--there are fewer hands to take up the craft, given that it is an art that demands strenuous labour and dedication and returns that are not commensurate with the effort that has gone in creating a piece.

Situated on the lanes adjacent to Press Enclave Marg in Saket, the pottery market accommodates around 15 roadside shops. Flaunting a vibrant appearance, the market draws people from every section of society.

Along with pottery, the market offers a wide range of items made with terracotta, clay and ceramic, including wind chimes, ethnic pots, idols and different types of wall hangings. There is a mind-boggling array of colourful clay artefacts to choose from.

However, pottery makers in the capital struggle to eke a living out of it.
“I have been in this profession for the past 20 years and sales have gone down considerably over the years,” said 63-years-old Dhanpati, who is originally from Haryana. “Though my name is Dhanpati, it hasn’t brought me much of a fortune.

I have taken a loan worth Rs 2 lakhs and if I fail to sell these items, I will be in big trouble,” she added, pointing to the colourful display of pots in her kiosk. 

If this is Dhanpati’s big worry, Bhagwan Baldev has another complaint. He informs that pottery sellers, who are mostly artisans, face strict prohibition to make the pottery pieces in the area since it creates smoke and pollution. “Since we are not allowed to create pots here, we bring it from states like Rajasthan, Bihar and Kolkata,” said Baldev, who has been in this business for the past 60 years.

“Earlier the business used to be satisfactory when people used to buy pitchers to keep water cool in summers. But now, with better income and new gadgets in the market people prefer to buy refrigerator to keep water and food,” he added.

But amid this gloom and struggle hope shines through at the prospect of better sales during the festival of lights. The potters are hopeful that Deepawali will light up their lives as well. “All these months have been very tough, I hope it gets better during Diwali,” said Baldev. “To meet our daily needs, many of us are also engaged in other professions,” he added.

Though most of the potters have inherited the art from their ancestors, they don’t prefer their children to carry on with this profession. “There are very few customers who buy potteries these days, as a result of which most of us sell only wind chimes and vases, which are quite popular,” said Dayaraj.

“Only we know how we are surviving and we don’t want our children to face the same problems,” he added ruefully.

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