CLAY POTTERY – The Heart of Bengal’s Art Handicrafts.


Clay pottery is an ancient craft in India. The art of Clay Pottery grew along with the Civilization. Thus, the history of clay pottery is as old as the history of human civilization.Pottery has a unique tempting appeal. Its association with religion and usage in religious ceremonies has given a deeper significance and a wider dimension.

The traditional folk art of Indian Clay Pottery, particularly of Bengal, is considered exceptional and best in the world. Indian are reflects the fusion of Social and religions conditions prevalent during the contemporary period when they were made.

The remains of Archaeological findings suggest that the artists of Clay Pottery in India had high degree of skill even during the in Neolithic ages. The Harappan potters were well versed in the techniques of both wheel pottery and moulded pottery.

The archaeological finds at Bengal have proved that the same degree of skill and excellence were achieved by Bengal potters too in those remote past days.

The traditional potters had been working on their wheels and had been turning out numerous items of clay products to cater to domestic and religious needs of the community. There has not been much change in the techniques, but they have been able to satisfy the growing needs of the people and enjoyed a very respectable place in the village community. Pottery produced by the potters is considered as the document of religious culture and the history of art and is called the lyric of handicrafts because of its irresistible and universal appeal. Bengal archaeological finds in Pandu Rajar Dhipi and elsewhere have proved that a high degree of skill and excellence was achieved by Bengal Potters in those remote past days. Kumbhakars, the traditional potters, have been working on their wheels in the villages of West Bengal and have been turning out numerous items of clay products to cater the domestic and religious needs of the community.

Domestic pottery is still being produced in various shapes and sizes, and is inseparable from any Indian scene.An Indian woman is accustomed to place a special pot in her hand for almost all special purpose. The terracotta Bankura horse of Bengal is quite famous all over the world. Visit any village in this state and you are bound to find the kumbhakars (potters) creating items of daily use on the potter’s wheel. The source of their raw material is the rich, alluvial clay found in Bengal’s rivers. These are shaped and fired in simple kilns. From pots, containers, plates for food to toys and ritual figurines, the Bengal potter moulds it all.

At Kumartuli in Kolkata, some of Bengal’s most innovative clay-potters fashion the images of popular gods and goddesses worshipped in the state. The high point comes when in autumn every year, idols of goddess Durga are made. Some of them are indeed exquisite works of art. Today, some renowned sculptors are also commissioned by Bengali non-resident Indians (NRIs) to produce replicas of Goddess Durga, which they carry with them all the way to the USA and England! If you look at the rich decorative terracotta panels of temples in Murshidabad, Bishnupur, and Midnapore, you will realise how much a fistful of clay means to the Bengali’s artistic psyche.

1 * Since how long these art forms exist ?

Pottery art in India is as ancient as the country itself. According to archaeological evidence, it was prevalent even during the Indus Valley Civilization. The exact time period when it came to Bengal is unknown, but what helped it grow and develop here was the fertile alluvial soil of the Ganges. Today, West Bengal is one of the largest producers of terracotta pottery in the country. The art form is spread all over this state, but Panchmura pottery has its own unique appeal, beauty and popularity. The patronage for Clay Dolls by Maharaja Krishnachandra of Krishnagar in the late 18th Century has been a major factor for real-life stylized, clay Dolls originating from the State.For clay model items, Krishnanagar is the place.

2 * What are the products available on these art forms with some images ?

Terracotta Wind Chimes Terracotta Rural Figures & Sculptures

Terracotta Wall Hangings Terracotta Asthetic Designer Jewelry

Terracotta Framed Photo | Artwork Tiles Terracotta Table Tops

Terracotta Wall Murals Terracotta Tea Sets

Terracotta Incense Diffuzer Terracotta Coffee Mugs

Terracotta Garden Hanging & Lantern Terracotta Name Plates

Terracotta LampStand & CandleHolders Terracotta Home Décor Items

Terracotta Artistic Murals & Tiles Terracotta Serveware & Containers

3 * How do they make products ?

The most important raw material for pottery is clay.” Terracotta is the hard, partially burnt clay without any moisture, used for pottery. Panchmura artisans have always taken care that even when operating under losses, no compromise should be made on the mati or clay. They use the finest quality of clay available on the banks of the Ganges near Kolkata, commonly known as gangamati (clay from the Ganges). It is quite interesting that the artists even take care of the age of the mati. “The older the alluvial clay, the better the quality.”

Once the mati (clay) is received, the actual work begins. It is a long process, taking up days, and at times even months, to complete. Even today, the age old potter’s wheel or chak is used for construction. Initially few selective articles were made. These consisted of various types of pots and other usable products. With innovation and experimentation, the artists began the production of other shapes which were decorative in nature. This was the stage of moving away from satisfying basic requirement to being an art for the market. It no more remained restricted to the village. Complicated designs were introduced, and the infamous ‘Bankura Horse’ created. The characteristic feature of this is that the entire product, say the horse, is not made together, unlike the pots that were simpler to make. It consists of various pieces which are constructed individually, on the wheel, and then joined together to give the final shape. They are then scraped and made even to give the smooth finish. Smaller and intricate parts are handmade and joined to the main body. This therefore marked the beginning of an art form that required great skill and expertise.

The tedious procedure does not get over here. After the basic products are made, they have to be dried. But not under direct sun, as it may lead to minute fractures and result in easily breakable forms. They are left in an open space for days for the moisture to completely evaporate. When this is done, the final baking takes place.

The furnace or bhati used for baking has to be carefully constructed. Authentically, the bhati is made by digging the ground in a circular shape (nowadays electric furnaces are becoming popular though that saves labor as well as cost and can be used repeatedly unlike the handmade furnace that can be used only once). Then it is lined with bricks and filled with coal (by well to do artisans), cow dung cake or wood and bhusa, that is cattle feed, (by poorer artisans). The art pieces are then carefully placed in the furnace, against one another. It is then lit and the opening of the bhati sealed. Depending on the products and the artists’ choice of color and strength, the heating takes place. Usually under normal circumstances, this is an overnight procedure, taking about 8-10 hours. Then the furnace is opened, the baked products taken out carefully and left to cool for 4-5 hours. The art forms have by now got their color that we see in the market, the true orange color of terracotta. And it is ready for sale.

4 * Who are these people who make ?

They are known as Kumbhakaras or Kumoors (the pot makers)

5 * What is the status of these art form ?

In Bengal handicraft items are sold at prices above reasonable in showrooms. However, it is a sad fact though that these art forms are in a miserable dying condition as in most parts of India. A considerable lot has been said about this by Ministries, Development Blocks ,NGO’s but significant little done for their survival and glorification. It was under such dire circumstances that the kumbhakaras (potters) of Panchmura, together with enterprising individuals, realized that they have to be the masters of their destiny if they wanted to prevent the extinction of the centuries old Bengal terracotta art. And thus the struggle for existence began and Terracotta and Clay handicrafts came to the surface and gradually reaching a National and International Platform.

6 * How we can help by buying these products to protect or develop these art form?

It is our socio-cultural duty to undertake the endeavor for preservation of handicrafts and Artworkat first place and continuation at the second place and that too without affecting their nativity. That is why we are trying to focus at the concerned fact from anthropological and ethnographic point of view. But at the same time it is also true that only the process of archiving these local art forms will not be of any direct help for the folk artists at individual level.

You may purchase their products to decorate your lovely Home/Office thus adding a warm touch of Ethnic Bengal or you may introduce our products as corporate Gifts for Annual Meetings, Seminars and Board Meetings. We have a huge potential TOGETHER for adding value to the LIFE of our ARTISANS and Culture.

We are promoting large domain of artisans and their artwork, across West Bengal, India to the global audience and connoisseur of Handicrafts and Folk Art.

Our online collection of handicrafts has increased with growing time from teracotta to experimenting worth Ceramics and Glass and Terracotta and creating utilities and serve wares, fashionable and tasteful.

7 * How difficult these people life for survival ? and how difficult to make these art forms to products ?

These ART FORM are facing an extreme decay and on verge of Extinction and would become obsolete,if we do not give proper attention and cooperation.

The below poverty line and underprivileged people in tribal villages of BIRBHUM,BANKURA,SILIGURI,COONCHBIHAR is the pioneer for these beautiful and exclusive art. rangamaati is working with underprivileged and below poverty line people and those who gets just One Meal per day, they have No Shelter for living and they have No Permanent source of Income, sometime its less that Rupees 500/Month and for many months its much lesser too. Even our Country INDIA, being a third World Country or Developing Country in some had brought NO DEVELOPMENT in INDIA’s OLD & TRADITIONAL Art Sector.

All our Artists and Crafts Women are deprived people from Tribal /Remote Villages, not only their children are suffering from Malnutrition, Lack of Education, proper Sanitation and a healthy life but to a large extend being deprived of Basic Human rights and socio recognition.

8 * What do they say when we approach to develop the art form to products ?

We had to get into this trade to support our families,” says Laltu, one of the kumbhakaras.I have not been able to feed my family properly with food nor provide clothes to maintain decency as the society demands.Could get my Father treated for his eyes and now he is blind..with Monsoon approaching we are not sure whether our weak feeble hut could withstand the temper of Nature…..Well I wouldn’t want my son to learn the art form he is working as a labor job in nearby Mills at least he would have a better life than Me …a Life I as a father have failed to provide them.

Had to Delete the Pictures and Video on humanitarian Grounds…our Bengal research Team members were sad somewhat depressed and Blank………

Life of a Potter on the Spinning Wheel is fragile.

Survival of the fittest, the law of the world, is witnessed in this instance. The constant effort to keep afloat goes on. If we agree that compromise is the rule of any game, then for these artists it is a mode of life. As patrons and lovers of this art form, we can at the least make an effort to help keep this art alive. The next time I go to one of these outlets, I will definitely get them as gifts for my friends and family members. And I am sure they will only be too happy to flaunt authentic Bengal terracotta in their homes and be noticed and appreciated by everyone.