Traditional Pots Bite the Dust

Pottery in Haryana suffers without government and popular support.

About the Video: The potters of Haryana specialize in the short necked earthen pot which has traditionally been used to store water in every household. In the local parlance these pots are referred to as ‘desi refrigerators’. The water stored in these earthen pots is cooled by evaporation and even on the hottest day, the pots yield chilled water. The clay also lends the water a distinctive taste that feels ‘fresh’ to the tongue. But inspite of the long-standing tradition and the well-known advantages, the potters are finding it increasingly difficult to earn a livelihood. Raw material is difficult to come by. Even the price of sawdust has increased. Cheap plastic pots have eaten up a large amount of the market share. And the government is doing little to promote local pottery. 

The culture of earthen pots in the country is ancient. It is regarded as a symbol of the birth of Indian civilization. It is equal parts art and function. It is healthy and organic. As the pottery of Haryana and its practitioners face an uncertain future, they hope that its uniqueness and significance can sustain itself and translate in the age of plastic. 

Our Community Correspondent says: Satyawan Verma comes from a community traditionally involved in pottery. He has been observing how their occupation has become difficult to sustain over the years. “The potter’s children don’t want to learn the craft anymore. There is no future in pottery,” says Satyawan. “Other states are promoting their local artisans and the arts are flourishing. But the Haryana government is apathetic and is putting the culture and art of our state at stake.” 

The Issue: The potter community was traditionally assigned land in the villages from where they source their mud and construct kilns. The barter system was prevalent and the community used to receive food grains, vegetables and hay in exchange for the pots. But as the price of land increased, the economic system of the villages was transformed and the potters have found themselves at the losing end. They are now forced to invest in the mud and even sawdust comes at a price. Places for building kilns have become scarce. The cost of manufacturing pots have increased significantly and cheap plastic pots are widely available. Profit margins are shrinking and the potter’s livelihood is unsustainable. Without alternative and with no government backing to help promote the craft, these craftsmen have been pushed into the silence of society’s margins. 

Call to Action: Satyawan urges the government to look into the potter’s distress. The government must wake up to the importance of this traditional art and help promote it the way other state governments have helped sustain the livelihoods of the local artisans and craftsmen. The least they could do he says is to come up with a scheme that can help give the potters the access to raw materials. 

Lastly, he urges the people to drink the cool water from a beautiful hand crafted earthen pot. It doesn’t have the icy bite of the freezer. Just a refreshing chill that fades into a sweet aftertaste in the mouth. Like a breeze on a summer day, he says. 

Related Links:

Pottery in India


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