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Rajasthan: Lack of Gov support compelling ‘Muslim kumhars’ to give up ancestral occupation and become labourers, craft in danger of dying out

Increased costs and reduced incomes – these challenges are confronting Pasmanda Muslim potters, who make terracotta clay kitchenware. Most of these killed potters are not being to sustain their households on this ancestral occupation, and they are being compelled to give it up to work as labourers.

Rajasthan— The use of pottery made of clay has been part of the history of India for thousands of years. Until the last few years, kitchenware made of clay was used extensively in villages. But due to the apathy of [successive] governments, the families of Muslim pottery makers are being forced to abandon this occupation. Currently, the introduction of cutting-edge plastic and non-stick products has also impacted the pottery business, and this isone a major reason for its decline. Highly skilled potters who have been trading in small-scale industries are facing a financial crisis. At present, most of these skilled potters are not being to run their households on this ancestral occupation, and they are being compelled to give it up to work as labourers.

The work of the Muslim potters (Pasmanda Muslims)is on the verge of closure in these changing times. Terracotta clay kitchenware is mainly used around Diwali. Apart from this,kulhads [earthenware cups]are used to serve tea only in tea shops. Due to this, the families of potters are being compelled to drop their ancestral work to become labourers.

Jamal Khan working on his [potter’s] wheel [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
Jamal Khan working on his [potter’s] wheel [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

Talking to The Mooknayak, Jamal Khan (52), a resident of Dharna gram panchayat in Barmer district says that to date, he has not received any financial assistance from the government for his business. Neither are they ever informed about any government support schemes nor has the government ever paid any attention to their craft of pottery. He says sadly, “We don’t even know who is the chief minister. We are illiterate rustic people.”

Meer Khan, a resident of Siwana, making an earthen pot in his secluded hut [Photo- Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
Meer Khan, a resident of Siwana, making an earthen pot in his secluded hut [Photo- Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

Meer Khan (60), who lives in Siwana tehsil in Barmer district, tells The Mooknayak, “Our diyas [lamps] light up people’s homes during Diwali, but in today’s times, doing this work, we are aren’t even able to light the cooking stove in our homes. Our ancestral work of making terracotta clay kitchenware has slowly and slowly reached the point of dying out, and the crisis surrounding our livelihood is deepening in front of us.

Firoz Khan, who is also a resident of Siwana, Barmer, says that, in this contemporary era, pottery made of terracotta clay is becoming a thing of the past. People are staying away from this kitchenware that sustains wellbeing. Until a few years ago, when the markets were filled with earthen kitchenware, surahis [goglets], chulhas [earthen cooking hearths], chillams[smoking pipes], etc., but today the trend for earthenware is continuously going down.

Clay was bought for the purpose of making kitchenware [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
Clay was bought for the purpose of making kitchenware [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

The clay has to be bought from other villages

The pottery-making families tell us that earlier they did not have to pay for the clay, but now it is sold on the market. Earlier, there were fields outside the village, from where they used to bring the clay for making pottery and idols. But houses have been built on these fields, and it has become difficult to dig up clay here. Now a trolley of clay is being purchased at the rate of Rs.4,000-5,000. “It is our ancestral occupation to make kitchenware out of clay. Besides this work, what else do we do..!” Meer Khan smiles wanly and says that one is not educated, brother! If we don’t do this work, we will die of starvation.

Lumps of clay ready for turning the kitchenware on the potter’s wheel  [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
Lumps of clay ready for turning the kitchenware on the potter’s wheel  [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

How is kitchenware made out of clay?

The Mooknayak visited the homes of pottery-makers in the small villages in Rajasthan’s Barmer district to talk to them about their difficulties and the challenges facing their profession. They explain that to make earthen kitchenware, first of all, clay is needed. After the clay is bought from elsewhere, it is ground to a fine powder. Then this powder is put into water and trod on for several hours, and then it is kept soaked for another several hour. After this, it is kneaded like dough for throwing on the wheel, and with skillful hands, it is shaped into lamps, urns, pots, piggy banks, etc.

A pot containing the water that is used while making kitchenware [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
A pot containing the water that is used while making kitchenware [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

The newly prepared clay pottery made in this way is dried in the sun for some time. The pieces are then baked for several hours in a furnace that is also made of clay. Once cool, the pottery pieces are decorated by painting colorful designs on them. Only then are they sent to the market to be sold. This work process requires the cooperation of various family members.

Pottery made by Firoz [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]
Pottery made by Firoz [Photo: Azaruddin, The Mooknayak]

‘We don’t want our children to do this work’

Meer Khan, Jamal Khan, and Firoz Khan are all of almost the same opinion that “Pottery making also comes under handicrafts. If the government does not pay attention to our profession as it does to other handicrafts, this craft will die out. If something is not done regarding this quickly, then pottery-makers will soon not be found. A lot of hard work goes into this, but the income generated is very low. We don’t want our children to work like us.”

यहाँ हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें: राजस्थान: सरकारी सुविधाएं न मिलने पर पुश्तैनी काम छोड़ मजदूरी करने को मजबूर ‘मुस्लिम कुम्हार’, कला के विलुप्त होने का संकट

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

Azrudin
Azrudin
Azaruddin is a freelance journalist. Azaruddin has worked in Jantantra TV, Jan TV Rajasthan, Prime News TV, Magazine Print Media. He has completed 3 years in the field of journalism. Azaruddin did his early studies from Siwana town of Barmer district. He has always worked to raise the voice of the rights of Dalits, Muslims, Backwards.

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