Earth being revered from time immemorial, mud derived from the land proves to be a perfect offering during worship for the potters of Chandra nagar. There is an added advantage of it being biodegradable, malleable and durable too. Votive figures and objects of daily necessity are crafted out of this. Sculptures of terracotta range from pea-sized to figures of 10 feet take shape in their hands. These are adorned with intricate patterns and painted with colors of different shades of mud.

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      Decorative and votive objects are mostly made out of terracotta. ‘Maliya’ and horses are made during festivals like Sankranti. Items of utility like pots, utensils, lamps etc are also made. Sculptures are also made on demand, with the designs given to them. Gullak or piggy banks and toys are also made these days. Contemporary and surreal forms are also made to attract the tourists.


      The potters are flooded with work during the festivals. The Boliki festival in Northern Madhya Pradesh falls in line with Makar Sankranti. On Bhar Bharata, people purchase these horses and take them home, the families thus making a vow that they will perform a ritual for their children. During the Boliki festival, votive horses (1) are used in a special puja to Lord Shiva, asking for his blessings upon the family’s male children. The number of horses kept is equal to the number of boys. In a box, they place the horse, a packet of sweet or salty food for each son and a Sanskrit prayer written by a priest. This is kept at the altar for two weeks and prayers are conducted. On Basant Panchami, each son opens the box kept for him and eats the sweet as a ritual to bless him with good fortune in the coming year. The horse is then taken in a procession and left to float in the village pond or river. This symbolizes the cyclic process of nature, returning the mud to the earth itself when it dissolves into the river bed.

      During Diwali, the craftsmen make ‘Diyas’ or lamps in various shapes like tortoises, elephants etc. The tribal population gives terracotta to their shrines. Tribal lore describes horses as god’s favorite creature. These sculptures are also said to be offered to appease malevolent spirits. They even make various decorative forms of the ‘Surahi’ (pitcher) or the Hookah.

      Myths & Legends:

      The demon king, Hiranyakashyap had put a ban on anyone worshipping Lord Vishnu. One day, a potter was cooking rice and he did not realize that there were kittens in the huge pot which he kept over the fire. When he heard the squeals, he panicked and called out to the Lord. When Hiranyakashyap heard this, he became furious. He declared that the potter will be spared only if the kittens come out alive. If they have died in the fire, then the potter will die too. It is said that by the miracle of Lord Vishnu, the kittens were alive after the rice was cooked and the potter was spared.

      In Sanskrit, both the elephant’s head and a clay vessel are called ‘Kumha’. 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.


      Clay being a timeless material has lent it’s qualities to man’s expressions for eons. It was readily available, organic and could be shaped into any form with just bare hands and minimum or no tools at all. Expressions of belief, surroundings, life, needs or aspirations could be immediately transformed into the tangible.

      The earliest known terracotta work goes back to around 15,000 years ago. A common symbol of most civilizations is the mother figure. In India, the earliest evidence dates back to 3000 B.C from the pre-Harrappan village communities of the hilly uplands in Baluchistan. Their technique of hand-modeling is still followed, where separate pellets of clay are used for eyes, mouth and adornments. In the latter half of the 3rd millennium BC, the Harappans further mastered more techniques of working with clay. Abundant terracotta work was produced during this age. They devised the mould and later the wheel to work with clay. Male and female figurines as well as a variety of animal figures like monkeys, goats, rhinos, elephants, pigs, lions. Bulls etc were done in detail. These are also made into seals and votive offerings. Terracotta toys also had an exquisite characteristic, with their movable heads and perforations for sliding around sticks and mounts on wheels. Hollow forms in clay were discovered around 10,000 years ago. Straw fillings or bamboo reinforcements are believed to have aided this purpose. The discovery of fire and the settling down of man in pastures accelerated the usage of terracotta.

      During the Mauryan period, the figures developed to fuller bodies and more detailed in their actions. The sensual appeal was enhanced and this aspect later led to the characteristic of the Mithuna sculptures. There was a court patronage too and this led to secular objects being handled in terracotta. A large influence of foreign styles is also seen during this period, especially that of Persio-Hellenistic art. The famous Northern Black polished ware and the black slipped pottery evolved in this period, as well as the characteristic toy animals decorated in thick black slip.

      In the Sunga period, 2nd century BC onwards, completely molded plaques replaced hand-modeled figures. They were given perforations on the top for hanging on the walls. These have been found all over the north and eastern India. The themes depicted an intense preoccupation of worldly life and thereby intricately delicate detailing done of clothing and ornaments. The famous Mithuna sculpture developed during this era is the man-woman passionate embrace and the theme of desire as the cause of procreation. Another popular plaque sculpture was the picnic party showing a child learning alphabets on a wooden board. The toy carts also reached defined forms having the elephant, ram and horse believed to symbolize the trinity of Indra, Agni and Surya. The recurring figurine of the horse is believed to have been stemmed from the practice of Ashwamedha, a royal ritual involving a horse, done for prosperity and fortune. In rural India, even today, votive offerings in the form of terracotta horses are significantly followed. This is also believed to be the poor man’s substitute for the original beast required for the ceremony.

      Parallely, in the southern and Deccan parts of India, during the 2nd century BC up to the early Christian era, clay art flourished. Due to the lack of rich fine common clay in the Satavahana Empire, pure white clay called ‘Kaolin’ was used which was superior in plasticity and durability. Miniature sculptures were mastered as well as hollow figures with a double mould. Roman influence was noticeably present.

      From the 1st to 3rd century AD, trade routes were opened in the cities of Mathura and Taxila. The sculptures depicted less restraint and an awareness of moods, spiritual insight, contemplation and desire. Many clay workers provided images for the pilgrims to the stupas. The Gandhara School of art developed in Taxila, a blend of Hellenistic plasticity and Indian motifs. Sculptures of Buddhas, Bodhisattavas and personages who looked Indian were crafted with a Greek technique. There was a reversal into hand modeling. The Bhakthi cult brought about terracottas with strong religious associations. A number of gods and goddesses of different religions were represented.

      The Gupta period saw an influx of trade and employment in abundance. Religious structures were constructed in brick and this facilitated the production of terracotta art in larger scales. There were architectural decorations comprising of carved and molded bricks, tiles and panels containing human, bird and vegetal motifs. The techniques of molding and hand-modeling are once again employed in cohesion.

      With the Muslim invasion and the decline of the Gupta Empire, there was a fall in the art also. Kashmir, medieval terracotta of Bengal, Bihar and Eastern India were the only ones which thrived. At Paharpur in Bengal, plaques were found dating from 8th and 10th centuries. Besides figures of Buddhist and Brahmanical deities, figures depicting Indian fables were also found.

      In the period from 14th to 18th century, there was a Vaisnavaic and Sakta revival. There were many temples built with terracotta carvings depicting the Ramayana and Mahabharatha. In the Muslim rule, since idols were not encouraged, a wide variety of patterned architectural elements came about in terracotta. Bricks which were square, rectangular, triangular, round, perforated, and fluted and plaques and other architectural elements came up in terracotta.

      The techniques and practice of contemporary terracotta art are varied. In some areas, the entire sculpture is hand-modeled. In others, the trunk is made by the potters by turning or molding, and then the limbs and adornments are added. Some use tools, while others only their fingers. Tribal terracotta art is most varied and vibrant in form. ‘Tribal’ also does not necessarily mean ‘crude’. They also achieve highly sophisticated forms and abstractions. 


      Ritual symbolism is seen in many of the products like the votive horses, elephants, forms of the tortoise, birds like peacocks etc. Sculptures as high as 10 ft are also made. The designs are inspired from flora and fauna, which are not necessarily native to the place. Inspirations for patterns are also derived from local architecture. The products have various patterns stamped onto them using easily available items to texture like combs, shells, pins etc. The bodies are made by an assembly of wheel-turned cores and hand-molded additions.


      Though it is a traditional craft, followed from time immemorial, the newer designs to suit changing tastes have come about only since the last 35 years. Even then, the craftsmen are able to only cater to the dwindling local markets and the occasional tourists. The lack of marketing and exposure is causing the craft to slowly die down. Lack of patronage, poor economic conditions and competition from mass production in moulds has deeply affected the craft.

      Introduction Process:

      Mud is collected from river banks and fields and sieved to a fine consistency. Stabilized with dung, it is then molded and shaped by the potters into beautiful sculptures spanning different sizes. These are then fired to strengthen them and painted over with terracotta color.

      Raw Materials:

      Mud – Red and Black soil is collected from the fields or river banks. White mud is also obtained. Cloth – Is used for sieving the mud impurities out.
      Wood and Dung cakes (Kande) – are used for fuel.
      Geru – earthy red color.
      Fevicol – for adhesion.

      Tools & Tech:

      Pindi: the beating tool.
      Lakdi-ki-pattiya: the wood scraper.
      Chaak or the shaping tool.
      flat tool for leveling and shaping.
      Various paraphernalia for making patterns on the clay forms, like shells, nails, bangles etc



      Mud is collected from river banks and fields and sieved to a fine consistency. Stabilized with dung, it is then molded and shaped by the potters into beautiful sculptures spanning different sizes. These are then fired to strengthen them and painted over with terracotta color.

      Preparing the mud
      The red and black soils are blended together. This mixture is then sieved using cloth. After sieving, it is dried and then soaked in water for 2-3 days, filtered and sieved and then mixed with water again to 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
      The mud is shaped into desired designs using the hand or the Chaak. 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 sculptures, few clay pieces are coiled or made into little balls and added on as decoration. While still a little moist, various patterns are made onto the surfaces. For example, the edges of shells are pressed onto the surface to imprint their undulations or pine cones are bought and when pressed, create semi-circular pock marks on the clay. These are then left to dry in the shade.

      Thin Budli and red mud is mixed and water is added. This is kept in a pot. After 12 hours, the water is shifted to another pot. This is then heated. After a while, the water content becomes half and the terracotta color required for the sculptures is obtained. The color is then brushed onto the various sculptures.

      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.


      Ashes of the dung cakes and wood used for baking and the broken fired products, which cannot be used for anything.

      Cluster Name: Chandra Nagar-Chhatarpur


      District / State
      Chandra Nagar-Chhatarpur / Madhya Pradesh
      59853 (2020)
      Best time to visit
      Augest - March
      Stay at
      local hotels
      How to reach
      Chandranagar village is 14 km from Khajuraho.
      Local travel
      Auto, walkable distance
      Must eat
      Poha Jalebi dish


      The Chhatarpur district was named after the name of the great warrior of the region called Maharaja Chhatrasal. Chhatarpur was founded by great Bundela King Maharaja Chhatrasal Singh Joo Deo in the year 1707.

      The territory under Chhatarpur district has been ruled by the Nandas, the Mauryas and the Sungas. Subsequently, Shak, Kushan and Vakataks were the rulers of this territory. The Gupta ruler Samudragupta also occupied this territory. After the downfall of Gupta rulers, the Vardhan dynasty flourished in the region. The great Chinese philosopher, Hieun Tsang came to India during Harshvardhan's period and wrote about 'Chichitp' (Bundelkhand). In early medieval period, Gurjar Pratihars occupied this vast area. Mau-Sahania was the second capital of Pratihara rulers and they constructed many temples in this region. Chandela dynasty was founded by Nannak in 825 AD. His successors were Harsh, Yashovarman Dhanga, Vidhyadhar,  Madan Varman and Parmardidev who built several temples in this territory. After Chandela dynasty, the Bundela dynasty occupied the area.

      It became a part of the state of Madhya Pradesh on 1st November 1956. The district occupies a central position in Bundelkhand region of the state. Chandranagar is a part of this district and is said to be inhabited by the migrants from the Rajgarh kingdom after its downfall.


      The village is situated at the north eastern fringes of Madhya Pradesh.  The district is located at longitudes and latitudes of 24.06 - 25.20 degrees on North and 78.59 - 80.26 degrees on East respectively. It is flanked by the Mohoba district (Uttar Pradesh) in the East, Tikamgarh (M.P) in West and Sagar (M.P) in South East. It lies at an average elevation of 305 meters above sea level.

      By Road: Chandranagar in Chhatarpur can be reached by road only from the surrounding cities of Khajuraho, Harpalpur, Jhansi and Mauranipur.
      By Rail: There is a station situated at Harpalpur on Jhansi Manikpur line. The nearest railway stations are at Khajuraho (45 km), Harpalpur (55 km) Jhansi (125 km), Mauranipur (65 km) and Satna (140 km).
      By Air: The nearest airport is situated at Khajuraho, which is also an international airport.


      The year may be divided into four seasons. The cold season from December to February is followed by summers from March to middle of June. The average maximum temperature received during the month of May is 43 degrees Celsius & minimum during the month of January is 7 to 10 degrees Celsius. The time from the middle of June to September is that of the south-west monsoons. The normal annual rainfall of Chhatarpur is 1068.3 mm. It receives maximum rainfall during south-west monsoons between June to September. October and November form the post monsoon or transition period.

      The district as a whole lies in the Yamuna sub basin of the Ganga basin and is traversed by the left bank tributaries of the Ken & the right bank tributaries of the Dhasen. Paddy, Jowar, Maize, Tuar, Urad, Til groundnut Soyabean, Sugarcane (Kharif) and wheat, Gram, Alsi, Muster, Rai & Vegetable (Rabi) are the main crops. Pyrophite, Dysphor, Okar and 'Chhui Mitti' are the minerals found in the District.

      The soils in the district are generally classified into four groups:
      - Alluvial soils of north eastern part of the district.
      - Red and yellow soil of north eastern parts.
      - Mixed red & black yellow soil of central part.
      - Medium black soil in the south western extreme of the district.


      In Chandranagar, ground water is the main source for drinking water supply as well as irrigation, both in rural and urban areas, using shallow tube and bore wells. Electricity is sparsely available at various times of the day. Infrastructure is inadequate, and most necessities are met by travelling to other areas in the district.

      In Chhatarpur District, Nationalized banks, Cooperative banks, Land Development Banks and Rural Development Banks are functioning. SBI, PNB, P&S Bank, Allahabad Bank, BOB, UBI, Canara Bank and RRBs are major banks in the district.

      Educational needs are met by other areas in the district. There are 1,964 primary schools, 715 middle schools and 76 High and Higher Secondary Schools in the district. There are only 6 government colleges in the district. In addition to above, there is a Government college of Education, an ITI, a Central School in Chhatarpur block, a DIET Centre and one Novodaya Vidyalaya in Nowgon block of the district.
      There are no large scale industries here. The economy is mostly dependent on agriculture and handicrafts. The District also has a Telephone Exchange, a Radio Station (All India Radio) and a Television Relay Centre.


      Chandranagar is sparsely populated by rural folk. Their houses are very basic ‘kachha houses’ with daub or mud wall construction. The roofs are thatched. The houses have front yards where most of the work happens in case of handicrafts. The temporary kilns are also made around this by the potters. The area is specked with temples, ruins and monuments. The Sun Temple of the 13th century and the Aktohan fortress are a few examples.


      The language of Chandranagar is Bundelkhandi. Hindi is also widely spoken. Vernaculars include Bharia, a Dravidian language spoken by at least 200,000 members of the Bharia tribe and written in the Devanagari script. The local cuisines involve 'Mahua' and fruits like Sathua, Chironchi and Ber. Rotis made of wheat are a part of their staple diet. Pottery, farming and bamboo crafts are part of their lives and livelihood. Hinduism is the predominant religion, followed by Jainism. Major festivals like Shivratri, Diwali, Makar Sankranti and Holi are celebrated with great festivities. The tribal culture is also quite predominant here.


      Famous For:

      Sun Temple: This was built around 13th century A.D. It is a Pancharathika style temple, which belongs to the later Chandela period. An image of Ganesha is carved on the lintel of the door. The sun idol is believed to be brought to the 'Garbha-griha' (the inner most core of the temple) from some other land.

      Fortress, Aktohan: Aktohan is situated about 57 km from Chhatarpur on the Chhaturpur-Laundi road. The area was under the Panna State. Perched on a high mound, the fortress of Bundeli style was built during the reign of Maharaja Hindupat in the 18th century A.D. It is also known as 'Rani-Ki-Garhi'. The two storied structure also has sprawling courtyards.

      Khajuraho festival: The world renowned temple town of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh is designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site for its archaeological and historical monuments. During the months of Feb to March, it draws crowds from India and abroad to a culturally enriched festival of classical dances. The exponents of popular classical dance forms are invited from every part of the country to perform during this week long festival.


      List of craftsmen.

      Documentation by:

      Team Gaatha

      Process Reference:

      Cluster Reference:

      (Date-28.05.2014) (Date-28.05.2014) book.pdf