Let Not The Terracotta Go To Tatters

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Colors of Culture and Heritage, The NamoLeague Times
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Art and Craft are weaved along with Gujarat since the time of the nomadic men and the cave age. Over the years, some of the arts were abandoned; some were made more creative while some were perceived as a routine culture and tradition. One such imagination and creativity gave birth to the Terracotta Art of Pottery.

Terracotta can be called a type of clay modeling. Terra means the ‘Earth Soil’ in Latin and ‘Cotta’ means ‘Statue’ in Italian language. Terracotta Art in Gujarat is especially famous for its votive terracotta figures which are found in large numbers in rural Gujarat. It is believed that the communities called the Rathwas and the Bhils of Gujarat are blessed with this art.

THE METHOD:
An apt amount of refined clay is the main element of the Terracotta. This clay is dried and then cast, molded or hand worked into the desired shape. The drying needs to be thorough. After this assurance, the material is then put into a furnace or on the top of a combustible pit and fired. After firing, the pit or the furnace is then covered with sand to cool. However if the material is fired to high temperature it would be classed as a ceramic material.

The unglazed material can be used for garden ware, decoration, oil lamps or ovens. This is not water-proof. So for other uses like sanitary piping, decoration in freezing areas or table ware, the terracotta needs to be glazed. The color of the Terracotta changes after the firing. The most common colors are orange, brown or orangish red due to the iron content in the common clay. Other colors may also be pink, yellow and gray. Earlier, the artisans were not aware about the use of color. But with the advancement, they started using red and black colors to decorate this earthen material.

THE HISTORY:
Gujarat is a place where every act of life has some special religious or cultural ceremony linked to it. Terracotta is originally a female creation. When the men of the family were busy hunting, farming or in a small scale business, the women engaged themselves in making articles out of clay. The articles included utensils, toys etc. At a later stage, the womenfolk who were wise enough started translating their imaginations into the work of art.
The Terracotta articles in Gujarat are usually prepared to offer to a deity and each figure has a special significance. Terracotta figures are offered to the deities at various ceremonies at the shrines and temples found in the rural Gujarat. Gujarat is full of such shrines on mountains, beneath trees, on a deserted road or barren field. The Terracotta figures add to the mystic and spirituality of the surroundings.

THE FIGURES:
The figures include horses, cows, bulls, buffaloes, elephants, replicas of insects that destroy the crops and also human beings. The horse is considered the most important of these clay figures and offered quite regularly at the shrines. Gujarat is also known for Dhabu, a Terracotta art that is dome shaped houses offered to the spirits of the dead. The styles and techniques of the terracotta figures vary from area to area, and ranging in size from 2cm to 1m high depending on the quality of clay.

THE CUSTOMS:
The entire process starts when the tribals decide to make an offering to the shrines. That person places an order with the potter and from the initial phase of the work to the time of offering personally rules and governs the action. Small offerings are made at the shrine with the Terracotta, live chicken, rice, coconuts and liquor. For the big offerings, friends and relatives are invited and then together the Terracotta is offered. The villagers, head of the village, the priest, the drummer, the pipe player and others go to the potter’s house. The Terracottas are collected and the potter is paid in rice or maize as well as money, depending upon the size of the order. He is also given coconuts and liquor. It seems to be none less than a celebration. In Gujarat there are many Tribal gods to whom Terracottas are offered, including ancestral gods, gods for crops, field gods, medicine gods and animal gods.

TERRACOTTA TODAY:
The wide use of metal has adversely affected the use of Terracotta figures as far as utensils are concerned. But on the other hand, the crude and attractive ethnic touch has made the Terracotta figures famous as decoration items in India as well as abroad. But despite the immense potentiality in the art, it is on a decline. Various reasons are held responsible: Disintegration among the artisans, financial hardship, poor infrastructure, dearth of design development, absence of market strategy, scarcity of raw materials, poor packing system, poor knowledge of accounting, ignorance on drinking water system, electrification system, post and telecommunication system and sanitary system, inadequate exposure of art and artisans etc.
Unless and until, we are aware of the immense potential of this art in Gujarat, no blame game can help prevent Terracotta go to Tatters!

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Let%20Not%20The%20Terracotta%20Go%20To%20Tatters_79

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