As water storage containers: Earthenware is a natural refrigerant, the porous nature of the earthen pots makes the accommodated water sift through the pores, it extracts the heat from the contained water and evaporates from the surface; it's a continuous process which leads to decrease in water temperature inside the pot, the more the ambient heat, the more will be the cooling effect. Hence, earthen pots (Matka) are a vital accessory for kitchens in western India. The pots made at Gundiyali find their applications in storing water.
As kitchen utensils: Utensils such as tumbler, handi, thali, katori, tandoor-pots are several products made in Gundiyali pottery. Food cooked in earthenware saturated with water provides slow evaporation of steam from pores, this result in characteristic flavor and healthy food.
As material storage containers: The absence of polymers and hardships in obtaining metal led to the use of earthenware as the material for storage containers, used for storing household stuff such as grains, utensils, beddings etc. These containers have been used since the Indus Valley Civilization.
As earthen lamps: Diya or Deepak constitutes a significant part of Gundiyali pottery usage, these are in high demand during Diwali and Navratra festivals. Oil is poured into these earthen lamps and a cotton wick is installed which is then burnt for illumination.
As lifestyle accessories: After the arrival of economical polymer products, the usage of pottery has faced a steep decline, this has lead Gundiyali potters to experiment with their products. Potters are now making Chandeliers, toys, wall hanging artworks and showcase them in various art fairs across the subcontinent; as a result, the consumption has penetrated into urban areas too. Earthenware satiates the user by fulfilling the long known wish to connect with crude natural elements and at the same time being aesthetically pleasant.
The raw materials for pot making are obtained from a particular region. The mud utilized for the process is brought from a specific 5 acre area; 45 km away from Gundiyali village. The characteristic smooth finish obtained is the result of rigorous process which involves earthenware being polished and cleaned at every stage. The paintings and patterns on the pots not only signify the aesthetic sensibilities of the craftsmen but are also a reflection of their natural surroundings. At Gundiyali, potters are reluctant to experiment or revise the existing forms and designs of their products, pots may change with the significant socio-economic changes. Some traditional vessel designs have changed in accordance with urban kitchens, although employing same decoration patterns.
Myths & Legends
According to Hindu mythology, when the gods and demons were churning the ocean for amrita, it was collected in a Kumbh (earthen pot). This is believed to be the first earthen pot ever created by the potters. There is another story associated with the earthen pot; during the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Shiva realized that he forgot to bring an earthen pot, hence he tore away a part of his skin and gave it to a Prajapati (a god of creativity) to form the pot, also Goddess Parvati poured out her blood to decorate the pot. This is how the first Kumbh (earthen pot) was made.
When nomadic lifestyle slowly changed to agricultural, the need for less transient objects came into being. Stationary dwellings and storages became a necessity. The earthen pot was one such object. Earthenware has been excavated from ancient city of Harappa, which existed about 5000 years ago. The Gundiyali pots are seen to have similar patterns drawn on them as seen on the pots from the Harappan excavations. The craftsmen are believed to originally hail from Sindh; their craft travelled with the successors who have settled in different regions of Kutch.
The style of pottery highly resembles that of the painted grey-ware pottery culture. The form of the vessels is derived from their specific function. Earthen pots (Matka) generally have spherical bases and steep sloped upper halves. This form is derived from the flow of water sifting through the pores, as this water is collected under the earthen pot, any other form might make water drip from every corner of the pot. For a vessel used to store materials such as grains or flour, a wide mouth is made for easy extraction through hands. Vessels utilized for bringing water have narrow mouths to prevent water spilling. Cooking vessels have wide mouths to assist stirring, with thick rims for comfortable handling while they are hot. Vessels used while serving food generally have less depth and flat bases for stability. The forms are also very closely related to the demand of the consumers; the occupation, family, clan identity, culinary habits and rituals are the factors which shape consumers' needs.
Earthenware is decorated with the patterns which can be found in the aesthetics of pottery in Gangetic plains. The designs are commonly classified under geometric, naturalistic motifs.
The geometric motifs are comprised of:
Lines: These form the stripes, loops, lattices, wavy patterns and zigzag patterns.
Triangles: The different types include concentrically placed triangles, hatched and alternatively filled triangles, wavy lines triangles and triangles forming a battle axe pattern.
Squares: Commonly found are the squares filled with cross-hatching and lattice, squares with chequer pattern and the ones with four petal flowers.
Diamond or lozenge pattern: Lines formed out of diamond pattern, diamonds placed within a circle and diamonds with oblique and vertical wavy lines.
The naturalistic motifs consist of various forms of animals, birds, humans, celestial elements and flora.
Gundiyali pottery is a labor intensive process. The cheap colorful polymer alternatives available in markets have created a large decline in the demand of this pottery. The selling price of Pottery pots is not coping up with the inflation in the cost of the products of daily use; this in fact has put the daily livelihood of the craftsmen in question. New generations can't embrace this craft as primary job because returns are not proportional to the investment of effort.