A Guide To Collecting Antique Indian Pottery

The Indian pottery can be divided on the basis of it's features (black pottery, blue pottery terracotta, etc.,) as well as the forms of pottery ie; Unglazed pottery and the Glazed pottery.

The story of Indian pottery began very early in the Neolithic age even before man discovered the potter's wheel. However, after the wheel was discovered the Indian pottery discovered its full potential. The first discovered pots were found with the discovery of the Harrapan and the Mohanjodaro cultures of the Indus valley civilization.

Indian pottery can be divided on the basis of its features (black pottery, blue pottery terracotta, etc.,) as well as its forms i.e. unglazed pottery and the glazed pottery.

The unglazed variety has a wide range and is also a finer version. This is a very fine paper thin pottery called 'kagzi' produced in Kutch, Kanpur, Alwar and in many other northern parts of the country.

Glazed pottery is a result of the Arabian influence on the Indian pottery. Very few centers produce this type of pottery. The main features of this type of work are, a white background with green and blue patterns developed on the pot after several rounds of baking in the kiln. This is mainly found in Delhi, Jaipur, Khurja, Rampur, Chunar and Amritsar in northern India and also in Karigari in Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

Based on its features Indian pottery can be divided into:

Black pottery: This is an unglazed form of pottery greatly influenced by the Harrapan style.

Different cities have different forms of black pottery. Like black pottery in Merrut and Jajjhar is in the form of slim necked water containers called "˜surahis' which are half turned and half molded clay pots with a variety of patterns and designs. Then there is the Kanpur style where thin pottery is made with incise designs, and in Pokhran where it's made with decorative patterns. Nizamabad in Uttar Pradesh is also known for its black pottery with silver patterns worked on it, this type of pottery has a lot of luster which is derived from the mud in the rice fields and the formula of making it is still a closely guarded secret. Again there is bidar work in Andhra Pradesh where oxidized gunmetal is inlaid with silver wire.

Blue pottery: This is a very famous form of glazed Indian pottery made out of multani mitti which is a form of soil or to say fuller earth. Blue pottery was originally developed by Mongol artisans who combined Chinese glazing technology with Persian decorative arts.

In the beginning this technique was used mainly to decorate mosques tombs and palaces but the Kashmir potters took this technique further and now the Persian designs have been adapted to make more sophisticated versions of the pottery in the form of urns, jars, vases, saucers, plates, pots, ashtrays and many such things. The places famous for making blue pottery are Delhi, Jaipur in Rajasthan and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh.

One striking feature is that though blue pottery is made in many different places, none of them is similar, each place has its unique feature which differentiates blue pottery of one region from another. Whereas the Khurja pottery is an introduction of blue glaze on the red clay, in Delhi blue pottery a special mix of powdered quartz is used to make a stone ware base for the blue pottery which is then glazed in blue.

Jaipur blue pottery is also unique in its own way, and in a way more hygienic to use .It is

semi-transparent and mostly decorated with birds and plants motifs. These pottery items, unlike that of Delhi, are made out of an Egyptian paste and fired at very low temperature. The range of items is primarily decorative such as ashtrays, vases, coasters, small bowls and boxes for trinkets.

In addition to all these types, there is a pottery style unique to Pondicherry (South India) made out of China clay called the golden bridge pottery.

Terracotta: This is perhaps the most common form of Indian pottery and can be found in every state of the country in one form or the other. Mostly found in the rural areas, this art work is displayed in the form of deities and animal figures in the places of worship which apart from temples also includes, pipal or mango trees .Terracotta is also an unglazed form of pottery. Different States and towns represent different form of terracotta work. For example, there is relief work of Moela in Rajasthan where on flat surfaces local deities are created with molded clay and then fired and painted in bright colors. It is also not uncommon to see terracotta panels and jars painted in white and decorated with mirror work in Gujarat and Rajasthan .In the State of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar you find plenty of terracotta figures mainly depicting animals like elephants, horses and serpents painted in bright colors. Orrisa and Madhya Pradesh in the eastern and Central India respectively are famous for decorative roof top tiles shaped like half tubes perched on top, on them are the figures of elephants and monkeys and horses and many other animals. .Terracotta is probably the poor man's way of expressing himself artistically. In India you find terracotta work almost in every house in the rural areas, very much depicting the artistic ability of the women folk of the house hold and at the same time making it an unique style of the area.

Apart from these pottery styles there is the southern style of pottery which is very famous for its clay pottery in huge dimensions. Mostly, glazed pottery in the form of storage jars and artistic figurines made intricately. Here, they also make the "˜chillum' a clay pipe used for smoking which is very popular both for use and collection. It is made out of clay into elegant shapes and sizes and painted deep blue and green glaze. The places where these are made commonly are Vellore,Usilampatti in Madurai, Karigari pottery in Andhra Pradesh, Arcot of Tamil Nadu and Khanapur in Belgaum district of Karnataka.

Pottery in India is of great religious significance. Figurines of Gods and Goddesses are made during festivals like Durga Puja and Diwali in Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra. Also popular are the gram devtas created by the local craftsmen who are the local deities of the place.

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