Pottery is considered one of the oldest artistic handicrafts in the world. Pottery or manpandum has been one of the Indian traditional arts & crafts and trades in Malaysia, which is still standing strong against the tests of time. It has not only kept us connected to our roots but also has helped to build our cultural identity and heritage. This time around, the Penang Hindu Association (PHA) has undertaken the initiative to revive and highlight this traditional craft which had existed long ago. The main aim of PHA was to create public awareness about Indian heritage. In order to create awareness about this traditional craft as part our heritage, PHA organised an educational and workshop to K Devaraj Pottery located at Parit Buntar on the 23th Saturday 2018. This educational mission was attended for 35 participants consists of PHA members, facilitators and volunteers (Heritage Day).
As an introduction to the visit, Mr Raghu the owner of the pottery briefed the participants about the factory and later led the participants to a hands-on activity. All the participants had fun and were full of excitement as it was their first experience handling pottery. Mr Raghu also shared other information about pottery. “In the early days, pottery used to be livelihood to many people at least to 10 families in Parit Buntar and but now I am the sole proprietor left in this business continuing my family legacy.” According to Mr Raghu, this business of pottery was introduced a century ago by his late grandfather. The process begins at the potter’s wheel. Initially, this art of making pots was made from scratch and it is labour-intensive. Sometime ago all the pots produced here were made using traditional methods which was handed down, unchanged, from genereation to generations of Indian potters.
Mr Raghu also mentioned that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the younger generation shows very little interest in a craft that requires not only diligence and long-term commitment. Currently, he also produces a range of items used in Indian temples during various festivals. One of the most popular item is a small dish-like oil lamp called ‘kutuvillaku’ which is lit during daily prayers. He also added that to date he is able to sustain and continue his venture with some improvisation to his production. The demand for his products comes mainly during festive seasons such as Tamil New Year, Ponggal, Navatri, Thaipusam and Sivaratiri. He added that his business is at peak during the Ponggal season, where there is an increase in demand by the Indian people for colourful clay pots to cook their Ponggal. Normally, he will decide on the special design, which are usually plain clay pots painted with floral, leaf and colourful kolam designs. Additionally, other products such as a range of items that included curry pots, rice pots and ritualistic items used for prayers are also made. To this day pottery is utilised for a vast array of domestic, religious and special occasions such as painted pots for marriages. The existence of various platforms, including potters’ markets and online pottery boutiques have contributed to this trend. The traditional designs have been adapted, and now, apart from the usual urns, jars, pots and vases, you can find tea sets, cups and saucers, plates and glasses, jugs, ashtrays and napkin rings the traditional way, made by hand.
This visit to the pottery factory was arranged in preparation to the grand event which will be held on 7th July 2018. This time PHA will be combining pottery with the infamous ‘masala’(spiced) tea to be demonstrated and displayed on this special day. Importantly, today, pottery thrives as an art form in Malaysia.
How it is made?
We need to understand that the entire process of making a perfect clay pot which can take days. Normally, they were made by the combination of two types of mud clay: the first is taken from the surface of the earth and the second after digging more than 10 feet deeper into the earth. The type of mud clay will determine the quality of the clay products. First, one has to break up the clay in a clay blancher that turns it into liquid. The filtered, liquid clay then will go into a filter bag that turns it into solid, before being casted into the clay mixed with sand and water which is also was known as making of matka. As matter of fact, making a matka takes a considerable amount of time. It is a long process of at least 8 to 10 days. Then, the mixture of clay with water undergoes the process of being shaped, finished, polished, dried and baked in a kiln for 5 days. After the clay, sand and water were mixed properly, the process of shaping and sculpting the clay pots manually will begin. However, liquid clay need to be filtered to remove the dirt, small stones and particles. There are machines to do this but it will never be the same as doing it by hand. In current times, in India, the earthen pots have gone under change with taps being attached for people’s convenience. The shaped clay pots will be left to dry in the sun for two to three hours. When it is 40% dry, we use a sharp knife to smooth away the rough edges and bumps. The pots then left under the sun for two to three days to dry completely. The firing or baking process takes place next – the pots were baked in a clay boiler for eight to nine hours. The final step is to swipe gravel all over the baked pots, for an earthen finish. The work that goes into producing the clay pots is tedious. Nevertheless, he loves doing what he does.
Pottery or ‘’manpandum’, one of forgotten and is widely recognized as a traditional craft among the Indian. Pottery used to make up as an important craft from the early days as it is mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata. The origin of Indian pottery could be traced back to the Indus Valley civilization. The evidence by the Archaeological Survey of India point out that the existence of this highly specialised pottery either for a ritualistic purpose or for the royalty during pre-Harappa period. Since pottery in the Indian subcontinent has an ancient history and is one of the most noticeable and iconic elements of Indian art as evidence can be obtained during the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilasation. Specifically, shards of pottery has been found in the early settlements of Mehrgarh from the Indus Valley Civilization For instance, storage jar unearthed dated 2700-2000 BC. In early days, large earthen pot jars utilised for the storage of water or other things form the largest part of traditional Indian pottery, as well as objects such as lamps.
The benefit of using Clay Products
One of a natural source of all the minerals used and consumed by humans, for a variety of purposes, is clay. Throughout ancient history as mentioned earlier, clay was used topically for soothing the skin, as well as internally for gastrointestinal issues. Cooking in clay pots have several advantages like those that the food tastes better, it is healthier, preserves nutrients. It also is a natural sweetener, for instance, acts as a natural sweetener and any acidic foods like potato, meat, rice will take some natural sweetness from the earthenware pot. This is the reason why liquids like water, tea and coffee tastes better in clay than any other vessel. Next it maintains pH balance as being alkaline in nature interacts with the acidity in the food, thereby neutralizing the pH balance in the food.
Source: World Hindu News (WHN)