There are more than 72 terracotta craft families in Gundiyali, Kutch (near Mandvi), from which about 25 families are engaged in the craft practice today. They practice the craft as a family, and also independently. Through the years, associations were developed with all the craftspeople of the community, information about whom are documented and presented through an extensive mapping process. A diverse type of product ranging from traditional pots to contemporary terracotta water bottles were also mapped.
About the Community
The craft cluster of Gundiyali, holds an immense historical, religious, economic significance. The terracotta craft community belongs to the Brar Muslim sect and are believed to be the descendents of Mohammad Paigamber’s foster mother who have migrated from Arab countries to Sindh and further to Kutch. It is said that their forefathers migrated here from Sindh (Pakistan) a few hundred years back and now they are an integral part of Kutch folk craft tradition. There are many members of the community that are based in Pakistan today, since the partition. From generations, craftsmen have been making earthen pots (matka) with the same shapes and designs as those seen in Harappan excavations.
There are about 72 terracotta families in all, of which about 25 families are engaged in the craft practice today. They practice the craft as a family, and also independently. A cross-knit community, they are all associated with each other as extended relatives. The craft community practices the craft across the year, and during monsoon they take a break from working on the wheel because the clay can’t be fired at that time. There are many community gatherings and rituals that take place across the year.
Every Friday, the men in the community gather to read the namaaz at the mosque. Traditionally, the gender roles within the community have been divided between men and women. Usually men are involved in the making process to create the products on the wheel, while women are involved in preparation of the clay, and later for painting the pots and ornamentation. Women and men are equally involved in the craft process and work together in producing outputs. Some elder women in the community work on the wheel to make big plates as well.
The local Jain and Hindu communities are consumers of the products for matkas to store water for day-to-day purposes and for diyas and garbo for festivities like Diwali and Navratri.
The craft practice
There are around 1248 houses out of which 160 houses are of Kumbhars or terracotta craftspeople. The craft practice has an elaborate slow design process. The coarse clay for terracotta craft is procured from Mondhwa rann, which is about five kilometres away from the village. The clay used for making products is basically in the rock form. These rocks are grinded into small particles. It is then soaked in water for some time so that it loses its hardness. These particles are then grinded again in the machine to get the powder form. In proper proportion, the water is added and is mixed properly with hands. This dough of clay is then wrapped up in a jute bag as it removes excessive water from the dough and also helps the clay to remain wet and avoid cracks. Round clay balls are made to make the products on the wheel. The clay is moldable once wet and it achieves strength when fired. It’s porous so the material breathes, and acts like an insulator. The craftspeople use red colour gheru, black clay and white stone ground and mixed with water to paint the products, and make distinctive patterns using brushes made from the branch of date trees. The gheru is applied on the products with the help of a rough cloth so that they achieve the natural shine. The village is surrounded by the raw materials, and further thorns, twigs, cardboard waste and wood are collected and fired for the kiln and some glass wool is used over broken pots or products to cover the kiln and stop the heat from passing out. The firing is done with the traditional method called pit firing.
The community uses the Chakda which is the potter’s wheel, and basic tools for pottery. In earlier times, they used the hand-operated potter’s wheel, and stick string to separate the product from the clay lump on wheel metal strips used to finish products. Electric wheels have now been introduced and are widely used as well. ‘Fumadu’ is a long plastic stick with a rotating wheel which has grooves on it to create lined patterns. The ‘tappan’ is used for beating the products, ‘farai’ are stone tools used to give support from the inside while making pots by hand. Carving tools, knives and cutters are often used for ornamentation on the clayware.
For more information on each family and craftspeople Click Here