Of earthen pots and vanishing heritage

Matka magic

Like all other handicrafts and crafts, the tradition of pottery making in India is very old. Clay pottery is an ancient craft in India. Pursuing the ancestral vocation, the Bhokoliya family earns a living making clay pots. 

“In one week we make 400 pots of varying sizes. These pots consist of three parts --the base, the middle with floral design and neck,” Harish Kumar Bhokoliya tells Metrolife. Once the base and middle part dries, “in the evening we give the fine finishing,” says Bhokoliya. It takes another four to five hours to bake the pots “where the children of the family come to help the elders for carrying and placing them,” says Neeta Bhokoliya.

The few racks of mud pots and vessels at the entrance of their small tenement are the only hint of the years of pottery traditions that lie hidden in the dingy lanes of the Kumhar Street, Uttam Nagar. 

“Moulding the clay isn’t an easy task, it’s experience and decades of practising the craft,” says Murari Prajapati, a potter from Kumhar Street. He adds “I make 60 to 70 pitchers a day; these can carry seven to eight litres of water.”

“The Prajapati family along with other potters from Kumhar Street came to the city from Rajasthan,” says Sharan Kumar Prajapati, the youngest of the Prajapati family. He adds “We have a simple process of mixing water and clay, then kneading the clay for hours and separating pebbles from it.”

The raw materials, like normal clay costs around Rs 4,500 to 5,000 a tractor and the red clay cost Rs 9,000 a tractor apart from husk for the potters kiln. Though it’s costly, the potters earn enough to keep them happy. 

Chameli, 72, a purveyor of earthen pots, sits in Gautam Nagar market everyday, in the hope that someone will buy her pots. “This is my family business which was handed to me by my mother-in-law. Though my family doesn’t takes an interest in my business I will continue till my last breath,” Chameli says.

“Drinking water from refrigerator won’t benefit you. Moreover, it will create health problems, I have been drinking the clay pot water since ages and I’m still healthy,” she adds. Very few people buy pitchers in the summer season, she tells Metrolife, adding sales pick up during marriage season and Diwali when the demand for small pots and diyas peaks. 

There are many earthen pot sellers in the city who narrate a similar story. “My family earning depends on these pots, we buy these clay materials from Uttam Nagar and some comes from West Bengal. Travelling charges include the tractor rent of Rs 2,000 from Uttam Nagar,” says Himanshi, a young vendor at Ram Krishna Ashram, Jhandewalan. “We sell these pots at Rs 80 - 90, at the beginning of summer the demand is more and gradually recedes. Sometimes I get just Rs 10 a day,” she adds

“Maintaining these earthen pots is a tedious job,” says Kanta Giri, a PG owner at Green Park. “We have to be cautious while moving around. Filling the pitchers is also a hassle as compared to a water purifier, where I don’t have to spend much time,” she adds. 

Despite the seeming problems, storing water in earthen pitcher has its advantages. “These earthen pots water have a lot of health benefits as the oxidation process continues inside the pot and keeps the water fresh and cool, which is gentle to the throat,” says Dr Ruchi Gulati, owner and fitness expert at Sukh Ayurveda, Noida.

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