Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mud pots sought by people for their traditional value

Mud pots sought by people for their traditional value - The Hindu

A.V. Ragunathan

Potters make use of the festive season

Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Against odds: Pots lined up in Cuddalore. —

CUDDALORE: Against all odds, the humble pot is still retaining its place in the society owing to its traditional value. The mud pots are most sought after by the farming community and the orthodox families, particularly during Pongal festival and weddings.

The art of pot-making is being nurtured by a handful of families at Chinna Kanganankuppam near Cuddalore town for generations. However, the pot-makers are becoming a fast vanishing tribe because their wards are quitting the lineal business for the greener pastures elsewhere. Of the 40 families in the area, now only five are engaged in whirling the wheels. With vessels made of alloys flooding the markets the lowly pot has a little space left to squeeze in.

The inclement weather this season too has contributed its share of woes. According to P.Mani (52) and his wife Pokila, from a dipper load of soil being brought from Ariyalur at a cost of Rs 4,000 a maximum of 300 pots can be made. Another Rs. 1,000 ought to be spent on firewood for baking the pots and on paints for decorating them. It takes three days for a pot to get its full shape: ie., initially the soil is mould to the required shape over the wheel rotated manually and then the base is added.

Later, the pot is burnt till it turns red and then red peroxide is applied on the surface to get the sheen. The profound concern of Mr. Mani is storing place. The clay mould should be exposed to sunlight for two days and if it rains all efforts will go in vain because the freshly formed pot will turn into a lump of mud.

It literally means that the wheel has come full circle for them, thus, forcing them to begin from the scratch. Considering the labour involved and the money invested the trade is hardly rewarding.

Yet, the families stick on because they are not endowed with any other skills to earn their livelihood. There is of course market resistance to the pot because of its brittle and transient nature.

However, a ray of hope for these families that are barely on the sustenance level is the “marriage sets” comprising 22-25 pots of various sizes with lids. These are considered “must items” in the weddings and hence, the marriage seasons bring the pot-makers some solace.

Mr. Mani stoically says that somehow the wheel of the fortune is rotating haltingly and it is only a question of time before it comes to a grinding halt.

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