Taken from earth or Maati, clay is simple element crafted to a plethora of forms. Needs, beliefs and imagination of the people have found shape and texture in clay. The craftsmen make figures of god and goddesses, animals as well as toys and objects of utility.

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Introduction:

Usage:

During the summers, clay water pots or dispensers are made and sold. ‘Gullak’ or coin-banks, oil lamps, incense burners, figures of gods and goddesses are also made. During the Pola festival, when bulls are worshipped, many figurines of bulls and horses are made. The craftsmen also make chillums, lanterns, different kinds of chimneys and various utensils.


Significance:

Amongst the tribal population, the Bidhri pooja is popular. The villagers save up money and congregate to sacrifice a goat. The ceremony involves worshipping a clay figurine of Banjari Matha or goddess, accompanied by a feast and copious amounts of locally brewed liquor.
The ‘Kumhar’ or the potter is also called ‘Prajapati’, lord of the people. Clay, wind and water play an important role in the lives of the people.  The potters need to respect these basic elements. Through the centuries of practice, they have attained thorough knowledge about the basic nature of these elements. In each village, there is at least one family of a potter, or a street full of potters. The ‘Garas’ system was prevalent in the olden days where the potter served only a few homes. He would make water pots, dishes to make bread, toys for children and lamps for festivals. The potter would receive grains, cloth and money for his services. The potter’s wheel is worshipped before any auspicious ceremony. Pots are symbolically used. They are kept in the ‘mandap’ or canopy during marriages and also kept during pregnancies. During yagnas, pots are kept to represent the planets. The cremation grounds have pots to hold ashes.

Potters work in large spaces. Their houses are usually located at the ends of the village, with the kilns adjacent to their dwellings. They have large front and backyards and attics, for working and storage since they have quite a large number of terracotta products stacked. The spaces are organized and demarcated for different functions like storing the raw materials, the wheel, kneading, finished products as well as tethering cattle.
The entire family takes part in the work. The women and children collect and prepare the clay, the men work on the wheels and work on the kiln while the women ornament the products and paint them.

Haku Shah in Votive Terracottas of Gujarat says – “The making of an object and living with it are the two interconnected elements that have governed the craft tradition for hundreds of years. The potters and tribals are linked by a close bond, the creative urge of the former and the religious needs of the latter form a wonderful combination becoming in fact inseparable.


Myths & Legends:

A legend goes that once the gods organized a Yagna to which Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva were invited. The men who made pots then were called ‘Hathretiya’. One of the Hathretiyas was commissioned to craft a Kumbha (earthen pot) for the sacred sacrifice ceremony. While making the pots, one of the pots cracked. The Hathretiya did not have water at hand, so he used his spittle to mend the crack. The pot was thus deemed to be contaminated. After much thought and chaos, Brahma created a potter and asked him to make a pot. The potter obliged and asked for tools to aid him in crafting. Vishnu gave him his Sudarshan Chakra, Shiva his Pindi (a circular base to support the chakra or wheel) and Brahma a piece from his sacred thread to cut the clay. The Kumbhakar or potter has been crafting various forms of pots and other articles with these divine tools. 

In Sanskrit, both the elephant’s head and a clay vessel are called ‘Kumbha’. A legend goes that in ancient times, elephants while playing with water had put mud on their heads. This had dried up later and fell off as a hollow form in the shape of the elephant’s head. It is believed that this was how clay pottery was invented. Fascinated by the pieces, the people kept them in their huts. One day when the huts caught fire, they noticed that the clay pieces remained intact. It also gradually dawned on them that it also withstood the effects of rain. They thus discovered firing and baking too.


History:

A legend goes that once the gods organized a Yagna to which Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva were invited. The men who made pots then were called ‘Hathretiya’. One of the Hathretiyas was commissioned to craft a Kumbha (earthen pot) for the sacred sacrifice ceremony. While making the pots, one of the pots cracked. The Hathretiya did not have water at hand, so he used his spittle to mend the crack. The pot was thus deemed to be contaminated. After much thought and chaos, Brahma created a potter and asked him to make a pot. The potter obliged and asked for tools to aid him in crafting. Vishnu gave him his Sudarshan Chakra, Shiva his Pindi (a circular base to support the chakra or wheel) and Brahma a piece from his sacred thread to cut the clay. The Kumbhakar or potter has been crafting various forms of pots and other articles with these divine tools. 

In Sanskrit, both the elephant’s head and a clay vessel are called ‘Kumbha’. A legend goes that in ancient times, elephants while playing with water had put mud on their heads. This had dried up later and fell off as a hollow form in the shape of the elephant’s head. It is believed that this was how clay pottery was invented. Fascinated by the pieces, the people kept them in their huts. One day when the huts caught fire, they noticed that the clay pieces remained intact. It also gradually dawned on them that it also withstood the effects of rain. They thus discovered firing and baking too.


Design:

The horse occupies a significant status in the ritual symbolism. Gods and heroes are often shown riding horses. Elephants too are commonly seen. The elephants with a ‘Howdah‘ (carriage on the elephants) are beautifully crafted. These are also used as the Singhaasan (throne) for the mother goddess. The animal figures are painted with lime and colored with ochre and blue.
Toys are usually hand – fashioned and are designed to be hollow and solid. These are usually done by women of the house. Horses, elephants, dogs, lions, birds, deer and bull are made, which are often fixed with wheels. Whistling toys are also made. These are one of the simplest and oldest forms of terracotta toys passed down from the Indus valley civilizations.
Masks are made for the Chhera festival, where young men and women dance around wearing masks. These are crafted out of clay pots, with holes made for eyes and a clay piece stuck on for the nose or other features. These are usually colored red or black. Pots turned upside down on a stick with grotesque features drawn on them are kept in the fields as scarecrows.
Lamps are made in the traditional designs with a pinched protrusion to keep the wick. The lamps are also crafted in various elaborate shapes and techniques like the Chidiya Diya (bird lamp) or the Mata Diya (mother lamp).

Black terracotta is specialized in Mandla, adorned with geometric motifs. Pots are used to brew liquor and have a unique shape to them. 

Another famous product of this region is the chimney. There are two types – with the stand and without the stand. The different parts are separately molded on the wheel. These are then joined together by hand. The decorative motifs and patterns are made by hand. The products have various patterns stamped onto them using easily available items to texture like combs, shells, pins etc.


Challenges:

Obtaining the right kind of mud is posing to be a problem in present times. The cost of the items made is also very less, and this paired with low sales is making life very difficult for the craftsmen. Marketing is also an issue. The work is facing large competition from the molded plastics and metal products. The younger generations have moved onto steady jobs of fixed monthly income, and have moved to the cities.


Introduction Process:


Raw Materials:

Mud – Red earth is bought from the Bamthi village, while Black soil is taken from the fields.
Straw – Straw is mixed to reinforce the sculpture.
Geru – A local soil generally used to impart red color to earthenware.
Firewood – Used as fuel in the Kiln.
Dung cakes – Used as fuel in the Kiln.
Ashes – Sometimes even ashes are used in the paste, for desired properties in the sculpture.


Waste:

Usually, no waste results from the whole process, even the ash from the kiln is used again in making the clay paste.


Tools & Tech:

Potter’s wheel
Paddle or wooden bat and the anvil in varying sizes
The bat is used for beating and the anvil is the stone support held inside the pot.
Turning stick – This is used to provide rotation to the wheel.
Thread – A thread is used to separate the product from its parent material.
Carving tools Several other tools are utilized to impart desired patterns and shapes to the material.
Broken pots – Broken pots are utilized to seal the kiln while firing, as the earthenware are insulators, they prevent the heat from escaping into the environment.


Rituals:


process:

Mud is collected from river banks and fields and mixed to a fine consistency. It is then stabilized with dung. After processing, it is molded and shaped by the potters into beautiful products. Smaller pieces of clay are used to decorate the surfaces. They are also painted with basic colors as well as the traditional Geru. These are then fired for strengthening.

Preparing the mud : The red and black soil are mixed in a proportion of 4:2 (red : black). The mixture is not sieved since the mud is already fine. It is soaked in water for 2-3 hours for the right consistency. It is then mixed with horse or cow dung and beaten with the hand, pindi or stomped using the feet.

Making the shapes : Pots and various vessels are made by turning on the potter’s wheel and then beating from inside to widen and even out the shape. On the objects like toys and figurines, few clay pieces are coiled or made into little balls and added to impart interesting textures. This is done by hand, with pressing, pinching and rolling. While still a little moist, various patterns are pressed onto the surfaces. For example, the edges of shells are pressed onto the surface to imprint their undulations. Pine cones are bought and when pressed, create semi-circular pock marks on the clay. These are then left to dry in the shade.
In case of masks, the pieces of old pots are taken and holes or slits are made for the eyes. The other features like nose, hair etc are made with pieces of clay and pasted on.

Painting : For the terracotta color, Geru is used to paint onto the finished products. The color is then brushed onto the various sculptures. Lime is also used to paint the products in blue or ochre colors. The black slip for the pottery is also popular.

Firing in the Bhatti/kiln : Firewood and dung cakes are spread on the ground. The unfired sculptures are placed over this. Broken pieces from previous firings are also sometimes added along with the fuel. They are stacked till a vague dome is formed. The spaces between the unfired sculptures are filled with more fuel. This is covered by a layer of straw, ashes and then a thin layer of fine clay. A hole is left at the top for ventilation and some space is given around the circumference. The space at the bottom is for adding the fuel. The kiln is then fired and maintained for around 4-5 hours. The temperature required for the sculptures is around 500 to 600 centigrade. The color of the finished product is governed by the amount of oxygen that reaches the flame, lesser the oxygen darker the color.


Cluster Name: Mandla-Mandla

Introduction:


district Mandla-Mandla
state Madhya Pradesh
population
langs Hindi, English
best-time Augest - March
stay-at Many options available
reach Jabalpur (97 Km) is the nearest airport & railway station, regular to and fro bus services available from Jabalpur to Mandla.
local Auto Rikshaws, Taxis
food local food

History:

Mandla was earlier called Mahishmati Nagari. An inscription in the Ramnagar fort indicates that the Gond-Rajput dynasty of Garha-Mandla began with a Rajput adventurer called Jadho Rao, who entered the service of a Gond king and married his daughter. The place remained under their local leadership till 1480. It was then taken over by Sangram Shah.  He extended the territory over to Narmada Valley, Bhopal, Sagar, Damoh and most of the regions of Satpura hills. It is said that he left behind fifty-two forts or districts for his successor. In 1564, Asaf Khan, a Mughal viceroy, invaded the region. Rani Durgawati fought his army valiantly near the historical Singorharh fort in Damoh. However, she could not win the battle and then she decided to retire past Garha towards Mandala. Shamed by her failure in the battle, the queen killed herself by plunging a dagger into her chest. Asaf Khan then robbed valuables from the region, along with more than a thousand elephants. Mandla came under the state of Bhopal during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Later it came under the Chandra Shah. It was during the time of Prem Narayan, the grandson of Chandra Shah, when the Bundelas invaded Narsinghpur district. They destroyed the castle of Chauragarh. There were constant disputes in the family which led to outside intervention. Eventually, the whole region was divided into many parts, out of which Sagar district was handed over to the Mughal emperor Akbar, the south of Sagar and Damoh districts to Chhatar Sal Raja of Panna, and Seoni district to the Gond Raja of Deogarh. In 1670, Mandla became the capital of the Kingdom. The city was invaded by Peshwas in 1742. The present territories of Balaghat and Bhandara were taken over by the Bhonsles of Nagpur. The last king of Gond-Rajput was overthrown and Mandla came under the control of Maratha Government of Sagar in the year 1781. Mandla was then appropriated by the Bhonsle Rajas of Nagpur, in accordance with a treaty concluded earlier with the Peshwa. Between 1818 AD to 1835 AD, Mandla was a tehsil of Seoni district. Mandla came under the Jabalpur district in 1840. It was given the status of a district during 1849 and 6 months later, it was united with Ramgarh and Sohagpur to form a bigger district. It went under further reallocations. The British establishment in Mandla took place in 1858 after the Revolt of 1857. In a nutshell, Mandla was ruled by the following - The Gond-Rajputs (since 15th century), the Mughals (1480 onwards), the Bundelas, the Peshwas (1742), the Marathas (1781), Bhonsle Raja of Nagpur (1799) and the British (1858 onwards). The first political Conference was organized at Mandla in 1917 A.D. The All India Congress Committee was set up at Mandla subsequently. Soon the Forest Satyagraha gained an alarming proportion at Bhichhia where many thousands of Gonds gathered under Gandhu Gond to cut the forest. A number of arrests were made during this event. The first Civil Disobedience Movement ended with the conclusion of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact on the 5th March 1931 and the movement was stopped in the Mandla city. However, in January 1932 with the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress leaders the Second Civil Disobedience Movement flared throughout the country. Many persons again took part in the movement, in the city including Girijashankar Agnihotri, Rawal Singh, and Ambika Goswami etc. Gandhiji was jailed soon. After he was released, he undertook a Harijan tour of the country from November 1933 to better the conditions of the Harijans. In the course of the tour, Gandhiji visited Mandla on the 6th of December by bus from Jabalpur. With the declaration of Madhya Pradesh Reorganization Act, from 21st May 1998, Mandla district has been bifurcated into Mandla and Dindori Districts. The complete Dindori and Shahpura tehsils and Mahandwani development Block formed Dindori District while the rest of the area existed in Mandla District.

Geography:

Mandla lies in the district of the same name. The district is located in the east-central part of the Madhya Pradesh. It is the eastern part of the Jabalpur district. The district forms a part of Satpura hills and is the watershed of three district river systems. It lies between the latitude 22 degree 2' and 23 degree  22' north and longitude 80 degree 18' and 81 degree 50' east. The tropic of cancer thus passes through the north of the district. The total area of the district is 13,269 Sq. Km. The district is bounded on the north-west by Jabalpur district; on the north and north-east by Shahdol district; on the south-east by Bilaspur - Rajnandgaon district; on the south by Durg and Balaghat district and on the west by Seoni district. By Air : Jabalpur is the nearest airport, 97 Km away from Mandla. The airport at Nagpur is 250 Km away from Mandla but is the nearest airport as it is of less hassle to reach Mandla from Nagpur by road. Flights to major cities like Indore, Bhopal are frequent. By Rail: Jabalpur is the nearest railhead. Daily trains between Delhi and Jabalpur are Mahakoshal Express and Gondwana Express, while Mumbai is connected through the Mahanagari Exp., Rajendra Ngr Exp., Kolkata Mail, LTT RJPB Exp. and Gorakhpur Exp. By Road: There are regular to and fro bus services available from Jabalpur to Mandla. Cars can be hired from all the nearby towns to reach Mandla. The drive from Nagpur to Mandla takes around 6 hours by car. Seoni is 130 km from Mandla.

Environment:



Infrastructure:

Mandla has only the bare minimum infrastructure and is one of the backward districts in this region. There are no water treatment facilities in Mandla. The main source of water supply in this region is groundwater, i.e. hand pump. However, there are some villages which come under piped water supply scheme. Apart from the above, water supply is also made through tube wells/dug wells. Mandla thrives on agriculture and small handicrafts. There are no major industries. These are seasonal. When there is no farming or harvesting to do, most of the people leave for labor to nearby places like Jabalpur or even far-off places like UP for brick kiln work, depending on the availability of work. The Mandla district has schools until the higher secondary level and polytechnic colleges. Facilities for higher studies are not available. The neighboring cities or towns are approached for this purpose.

Architecture:

The dwellings are mostly houses made of cupping mud around a thin wall of brick. Long clay tiles on rafters form the roof. The houses are mostly cow-dung mopped and tiled with terracotta roofs. One of the rooms of the house, usually the front long room as long as the width of the house, has the furnace. In some houses, the furnace is located outside. A few families are presently building their houses with cement and concrete. They consist of a living room, kitchen, veranda, a special room for women to use while menstruating, and a shrine for clan gods.

Culture:

The culture in Mandla has a strong tribal character to it. The Gond and the Baiga tribes are most significant tribes in the district. The Gonds are mostly agriculturalists whereas the Baigas are forest dwellers. In the tribal societies, the clans are usually named after some animals or plants like Markam (Mango tree), Tekam (Indian Teak tree), Netam (the dog), Warkara (wild cat) and so on. Worshipping the ancestors is an integral part of the tribal culture. Gonds have a tribal council to settle local disputes of internal nature such as conjugal infidelity and other social matters while they settle the extraneous matters in the presence of Mukadama, the village headman. Dance and music too are an integral part of their culture. The arts portray their feelings, aspirations and interactions with nature. They have specific songs and dances for every season or ceremony. Dance and song lasts the whole day and spills over to the nights during grand festivities. These folk dances are popularly called 'Karma', based on the name of a popularly grown plant. The stem of this plant called Karam Kalla is dug into the ground before beginning the dance. The tribals then dance around this plant. Their festivals are not associated with religion but more so with the harvest cycle. Throughout the year, a number of fairs, festivals and feasts are organized in the village. Bidri, Nawa, Hareli, Khyania and Melamadai are major festivals and fairs. Hareli is the festival of rain. It is observed in the early period of rains. This is mostly celebrated in the month of July-August. Hareli word is probably derived from Hindi word, `Haryali` which means greenery, as in this season vegetation begins to bloom and there is greenery all around. Khyania is another important festival of the region. Melamadai is a huge fair that is held after the harvesting of the paddy crop. The fair goes on for a week after Diwali and is inaugurated by the village head. The head of the village inaugurates the Mela. Another festival called the Chait Gal begins during Sharad Purnima in October and goes up till Kartik Purnima.

People:



Famous For:

Kanha-Kisli National Park Terracotta work : The Kumhars or potters of Mandla craft exquisite pieces of terracotta work. They not only make pots and vessels but figures of gods and goddesses, beautiful lamps, pipes and toys out of the clay derived from the river banks and fields. Moti Mahal, Ramnagar : Ramnagar is situated at distance at a distance of 20 kms from Mandla. Moti Mahal is built on the banks of Narmada by the Gibd ruler Hirdayshay in the second half of the 17th century. Hot water spring, Tikera : Tikeriya is 70 km away from Mandla on the Jabalpur-Mandla road. This is a hot water spring in the center of the Narmada River. Columnar basalt, Ramnagar : This is considered to be a phenomenal wonder of nature. These rocks are hexagonal in shape, a rare geological feature. There is an entire mountain which is of stacked hexagonal columns. The mountain is locally called the Karia Pahad or the black mountain.

Craftsmen

List of craftsmen.

Documentation by:

Process Reference:

Cluster Reference:

(Date-19.07.2012) http://www.indianetzone.com/49/mandla_district.htm (Date-19.07.2012) http://www.mppcb.nic.in/pdf/PH_Summ_Halon-Mandla-Eng.pdf (Date-19.07.2012) http://ppcp.in/mandla-mp/district-at-a-glance.pdf

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