Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions and India has one of the most tangible and iconic elements in Indian art. Traditional pottery in India is specialized in different castes and communities.
Indian pottery includes objects such as simple kulhar cups, and oil lamps, that are disposable after a single use remains common even today. Pots, Large matkis were used to store water. Plaques are made with different gods inscribed in them.
Pottery is a cultural art that is still practiced in small villages in India and deserves recognition for its intricate handmade artwork.
Molela, a small village in the Rajsamand, Rajasthan is situated on the banks of the river Banas. Normally, it could pass off as an ordinary village that you pass by while traversing the rural landscape of our country.
The distinction here lies in the terracotta plaques made only here from all over India. The plaques are made as a flat surface, unlike the usual idols made elsewhere.
This beautiful craft has existed for generations and caters to the tribals who travel from as far as Madhya Pradesh. Once a year, in the months of Feb-March, the tribals purchase the brightly painted terracotta plaques from these potters. Usually, a priest accompanies them for this ritual of buying. The most important figures are that of Gods inscribed on the plaques. The tribals prefer bright colors for God, and there are specific colors to depict each God. For instance, Blue is used for Kaladev, and Orange is used for Goradev.
The legend behind this unique craft is that there are claims that a blind potter once dreamt of God Devnararyan (Dharmaraja). God asked him to dig clay at a particular place and make his image and miraculously the next morning, his sight was restored. He fulfilled his promise by making the image of God and the tradition of the craft has continued.
To ensure business throughout the year and the craftsmen are adapting well to the requirements and evolved their suit based on recent times.
How is Molela Clay Art made?
Molela clay is muddy in color. Dug from the banks of Banas River, 2 km away from Molela on Nathdwara Road, each potter has his spot for digging based on his own previous experiences. For the colors, they use natural stone and mineral colors. Palewa is another clay and makes different colors when mixed with other elements. The reddish color is made by adding red soil to the mixture. Vegetable gum called collected from the trees is used as a binder. For shine, they apply a lacquer coat which is locally called a Jala. Only one family makes Jala in the entire region.
The weather is conducive for this process in the winter months, as the harsh summers cause cracks while drying the product. The first dry donkey dung powder is spread on the ground. The slab is then beaten. When the slab becomes 1.5 inches thick, a wooden stick is used for beating. After this, an approximate measurement is taken with the palm and the surface is smoothened by hand. Having cut the main shape, thick coils are made, flattened, and added to the main slab to make a shape. Thin coils are used for detailing. The final product is dried in the sun and the dried plaques are then fired in the kiln slowly. The fired product is painted with natural bright colors.