Hit by rising costs of essential commodities and lack of market interest, Kashmiri potters are now contemplating giving up their generations’ old profession.
As the demand for the mud pots is on a decline, potters fear that their children may have to look for other professions.
While sharing how they make the pottery, potters said that the clay is molded by hand with simple tools made of wood, leather and stone. “The local barley is stored in a Zama, which is a wide vessel that is narrow at the neck and wide at the mouth,” they shared.
The potter who used to make terracotta’s held an important position in the society. Almost in every mohalla there was a terracotta Centre. In olden days the potter served some particular homes only and he used to make water pots, milk pots, and vessels for cooking food. But now this old tradition of making pottery is craving for attention and has started gradually disappearing with the passage of time.
In north Kashmir's Baramulla, Ghulam Ahmed Kumar wonders what life has in store for him. Many generations of his family have been in the pottery business but as the demand for the mud pots is on a decline, Kumar fears that his children may have to look for other professions.
Recalling the times, when this art was considered as a valid profession, Kumar told KNS, “My father used to sell these pots and in barter get enough grains that would last for a full year. It was a valued profession but now with the introduction of modern type of utensils this great art of pottery has been overshadowed and our new generation is turning to other professions.”
He further said that pottery works were a part of daily life and used for several functions in the past. “Some of the pots were considered essential for certain ceremonies like henna pots, earthen lamps, tumbaknari, milk pots etc. In Kashmir, some 70-years back in village marriages food was served in mud pots only. Incidentally food served in mud pots is considered to be clean and matka works like a refrigerator, which keeps the water cool. Unfortunately for us, these are not used anymore,” Kumar added.
Many potters believe that traditional use of terracotta plates have not died. “These are still used in marriages for serving food in some rural areas in Kashmir but in urban areas, no such art exist. Shallow plate having ring like base is called Tabich and the shallow dish is called Toak in Kashmiri,” said Mohammad Rajab, another potter.
Another potter Wahab Kumar from Bijbehara said, “Almost in every mohalla there used to be a terracotta center and we used to serve some particular homes in the village and get money and grains in return. The potter who used to make these pots held an important position in the village.”
Ghulam Mohammad Dar of Baramulla said due to very little demand for these pots it was difficult for them to provide livelihood for their families. “We sell some particular items like heaters, milk pots and tumbaknaries and that too very rarely-my son has switched to fruit business-he doesn’t like this job. It is not possible to survive family on the earnings of pottery work,” Dar added. (KNS)