The art of handling of clay called Pottery was one of the earliest skills known to the Indians. From time immemorial, lumps of clay were hand -moulded to form toys and deities of worship. The advent of the Potter’s wheel gave man the task of making beautifully shaped pots for his personal use. The movement of the wheel and the pressure exerted by the hands on the clay gives new shapes and forms.
Pottery is an art that has evolved since time immemorial. The origins of pottery date back to the Neolithic Era; however in India it began with the Indus Valley Civilization and was developed as a response to the needs of mankind.
Although the art of glazing pottery was known in India from ancient times, the finest pottery in India is of the unglazed variety. This unglazed pottery has a wide range. Very fine paper-thin pottery is produced in Kutch, Kanpur and Alwar. Alwar is known for paper-thin pottery called Kagzi.
There are three different styles in unglazed pottery.
1. Paper thin, biscuit colored pottery with incised patterns.
2. Here the pot is polished, painted with red and white slips into intricate patterns while the outline is incised. The scrafito technique is used here.
3. In this style, highly polished pottery is given strong, deeply incised, stylized patterns of arabesques. The rest of the area is covered with rows of black dots and the contrast in color and texture gives the incised area greater prominence.
Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, Pokhran in Rajasthan, Meerut and Harpur in Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur in Maharastra, Kutch in Gujarat, Jahjjar in Haryana, Birbhum in Bengal and Manipur are famous for their special styles in pottery. Each region has its own specialty.
Kangra is noted for black pottery, which resembles the Harappan pottery style.Pokhran has stylized forms with incised decorative patterns. Kanpur makes thin pottery with incised designs. Meerut and Jhajjar make slim necked water containers called surahis. These are half -turned and half -moulded and have a variety of patterns and designs. Kutch is famous for pots, terracotta horses and elephants. The pots are made for different occasions like marriages, death, etc.Nizamabad in Uttar Pradesh is noted for black pottery with silver patterns worked in it. This is similar to the Bidar work of Andhra where oxidized gunmetal is inlaid with silver wire.
In India, the making of Glazed pottery came into being with the advent of the Arab influence in India. Only a few centers in India are known for its production. Glazed pottery with white background and blue and green patterns is developed in Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Khurja, Chunar and Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, and Karigari in Tamilnadu.
Delhi, Khurja and Jaipur are known for the famed Blue Pottery. This does not involve the usage of clay. First, the basic forms are created and then they are painted on the surface.
Ceramic pots of Jaipur put up for sale
Then it is covered with finely ground glass and fired. Jaipur and Delhi follow this method whereas Khurja and Rampur prepare the base from red clay and then fire it.
Marble inlay works
In Chunar, the raised designs in Surahis are adapted for glazed pottery. A brown slip is given finally.In Karigari in Tamilnadu, biscuit ware is created with incised patterns and given a blue or green glaze.
The rural parts of India commonly display terracotta animal figures in places of worship or under the mango or pipal trees in the vicinity of temples. The potters mostly do the terracotta figures. In some parts of Indian villages, the women folk create their own forms of Gods for worship and other decorative pieces for adorning their houses.
In Bihar, Bengal and Gujarat, during festivals, the women prepare clay figures to propitiate their Gods and Goddesses.
The relief- worked plague of Moela in Rajasthan has a distinct style. Here on flat surface local deities are created with moulded clay. They are then fired and then painted brilliant colors.
Terracotta works used for decorations
Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh has villages where clay figures of animals are done. The potter creates the basic form by throwing separate pieces on the wheel and then joining them.
Clay toys common in India.
Tamilnadu is famous for the terracotta figures of the Aiyanar Deity. The figures are huge and they are found standing guard at the entrances of villages protecting the insiders from evil spirits.Gujarat also has votive figures like horses with riders, etc.
In the year 1398, when India was invaded by Tamur Lane, Sultan Sikander sent his son to pay tribute to the invader. Tamur lane betrayed the agreement of his alliance with the Sultan and made his son a hostage in Samarkhand for seven years. Many craftsmen from Central Asia and Persia had accompanied Tamur Lane to India and were placed in Samarkhand as well. There this young dynamic Prince saw the strange craft made of paper pulp. He learnt the art and later when he became the king after his father’s death, spread this art among the craftsmen of his region.
A Fish pattern made of Papier Mache
The base of this craft is paper pulp coarsely mashed and mixed with copper sulphate and rice-flour paste. Then moulded by covering the mould with a thin paper and then with layers of this mixture. The designers then sketch the designs intricately and finally it is laquered and polished in bright colors. A touch of golden color is always found on all papier-mache products owing its root to the Persian design.
The puppets are believed to be around since the time of Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilisation dating back to 2300 BC. Several dolls with strings are found in some of the harappan cities.
The Mahabharata refers to popular entertainment in India including art of puppetry and shadow theatre. There is reference in Gita where the three qualities found in men (Satta, Rajah and Tamah) are said to be the three strings pulled by the Divine to lead man in life.
Silappadikaaram – earliest reference to the art of puppetry is found in Sangam literature.
Puppetry throughout the ages has held an important place in traditional entertainment. Puppetry has been successfully used to motivate emotionally and physically handicapped students to develop their mental and physical faculties. Awareness programmes about the conservation of the natural and cultural environment have also proved to be useful. These programmes aim at sensitising the students to the beauty in word, sound, form, colour and movement. The aesthetic satisfaction derived from making of puppets and communicating through them helps in the all round development of the personality of the child.
Stories adapted from puranic literature, local myths and legends usually form the content of traditional puppet theatre in India which, in turn, imbibes elements of all creative expressions like painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama, etc. The presentation of puppet programmes involves the creative efforts of many people working together.
Several types of Puppet forms are available in our diverse culture of India:
• String Puppets
a) It has jointed body and limbs that allow movement.
b) Puppets are made of wood, or wire, or cloth stuffed with cotton, rags or saw dust. T
c) The puppet is suspended from a hand held control strings that are attached to different parts of the puppet’s body.
d) The puppet is manipulated by operating the control as well as by loosening or pulling the relevant string(s).
e) For the convenience of manipulation and support, two rods are attached to the hands of the puppets.
i. Kathputli (Rajasthan)
ii. Kundhei (Orissa)
iii. Gombeyatta (Karnataka)
iv. Bommalattam (TN)
• Shadow Puppets
a) Shadow puppets are flat puppets that are operated against the rear of a tightly stretched white cloth screen.
b) They are cut out of leather, which has been treated to make it translucent.
c) Shadow puppets are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it.
d) The manipulation between the light and the screen make silhouettes or colourful shadows for the viewers who sit in front of the screen.
e) The puppet shapes or cutouts are perforated and split bamboo or cane sticks are attached vertically to the puppet for handling and manipulation.
i. Togalu Gombeyatta (Karnataka)
ii. Tholu Bommalata (AP)
iii. Ravanachhaya (Orissa)
iv. Tolpavakoothu (Kerala)
v. Chamadyache Bahulya (Maharashtra)
• Rod Puppets
a) These puppets have mostly three joints. The heads, supported by the main rod, is joined at the neck and both hands attached to rods are joined at the shoulders.
b) The main holding rod that supports the puppet may be hidden by a robe or costume of the puppet.
c) The action rods are usually connected to the hands of the puppet and manipulated by the puppeteer to show action.
d) The body and hands have a bamboo base covered and plastered with hay and rice husk mixed and moulded into required shape.
e) Due to the absence of legs the puppets are draped in a sari or dhoti as per the character.
f) The puppet movements are highly dramatic.
i. Putul Nautch (WB)
ii. Yampuri (Bihar)
iii. Kathi Kandhe (Orissa)
• Glove Puppets
a) The glove puppets are worn on hands just like a glove.
b) The middle finger and thumb act as hands of the puppet and the index finger acts as the head.
c) Head is made of either papier mache, cloth or wood, with two hands emerging from just below the neck.
1. Pava-kathakali (Kerala)
2. Kundhei nach (Orissa)
In the past, traditional puppet shows were used to convey religious messages in villages. Today, due to the influence of modern communication methods, the traditional puppetry is at the cross roads in many states of India with most puppeteers taking to alternate source of livelihood. However, contemporary puppetry has a tremendous scope in the field of education, entertainment and awareness generation.
Pavai (Centre for Puppetry) explores and uses the art of puppetry for communication at various levels and works towards its promotion and preservation with the help of children, youth and the teaching community.
The origin of Indian painting goes back to 8000 years and an account of its development is inextricably meshed with the development of Indian civilization.
• Prehistoric painting: Theme of painting were Hunting theme (group Hunting scenes); Figures of animals & birds; Battle Scenes; Dancing Scenes. Example; Bhibetka Caves (MP).
• Mural paintings: Indian Mural Paintings are paintings made on walls of caves and palaces. The caves of Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta also on the Bagh caves and Sittanvasal are examples of it.
• Miniature Paintings: Miniature paintings are executed on books and albums, and on perishable material such as paper and cloth. The Palas of Bengal were the pioneers of miniature painting in India. The art reached its zenith during the Mughal period and was pursued by the painters of different Rajasthani Schools of painting, like Bundi, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Marwar and Mewar. The Ragamala paintings also belong to this school, as do the Company paintings produced during the British Raj.
• Folk paintings: The rural folk paintings of India bear distinctive colorful designs, which are treated with religious and mystical motifs. These are: