Kumhargaon - The Potters' Village

Kumhargaon is a settlement of hundreds of potters’ families on the outskirts of Delhi. These potters, mostly from Alwar in Rajasthan, migrated to Delhi sometime in the 1970s and settled in this remote colony. Almost every household is dedicated towards the creating wares of clay, an art that has been passed on through the generations. The whole family gets involved in the process – processing the hard clay, shaping the clay dough and finally hardening the product in the kiln. While the women and children do their share, its generally the man who gets behind the wheel molding the clay.

The village produces a huge variety of products depending on expertise and demand. Meandering through the village one will see potters making water pots, diyas (earthen lamps), flower pots, piggy banks, clay sculptures, kulhads (tea cups), glazed pottery etc. During the Diwali season demand shifts towards diyas and decorative pots, while in summer demand for water pots peak. And then there are those with unique expertise. There are artisans making fiberglass sculptures, terracotta pots, 3D portraits, and clay handis (wide mouthed cooking vessel) for restaurants.

 

Due to unavailability of good clay in the urban region, the clay is generally sourced from neighboring Haryana. The hard clay is first beaten fine with wooden clubs and then sieved to get rid of stones etc. It is then put in a water tank to soften. The final stage of making the clay moldable is by kneading it for hours with hands. After the wares are molded, they have to be hardened by baking in a kiln. Almost every house hosts a wood fired concrete kiln. As dusk approaches, the smoke from the kilns blacken out the sky much before night takes over.

 

The potters sell their wares to middlemen for abysmally low margins.  While the same wares fetch handsome prices in the ethnic arts and handicrafts markets, the potter families barely eke out living. In spite of the pressures of a back breaking job and the struggle to unshackle from a hand to mouth existence, the villagers do manage to keep the smile on their faces and their the pride in their work.

Hari Potter !
Hari Potter !

Spinning his magic on the wheel.

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Kneading the clay
Kneading the clay

The clay has to be kneaded for quite a while to make it soft and uniform enough to be molded.

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Ghanshyam
Ghanshyam

Ghanshyam says that the potters usually make clay piggy banks when they can't figure anything else to make.

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Only the fit shall survive
Only the fit shall survive
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Breaking mud
Breaking mud

The mud from the fields needs to be beaten fine before it can be kneaded into clay dough.

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Breaking mud
Breaking mud
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Infectious Smiles
Infectious Smiles

Girl tends to her small outlet in the colony.

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The Wall
The Wall

You know you have reached Kumhargaon when you come upon a wall made of clay pots.

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Boundaries
Boundaries

The earthen pots mark the boundary between two houses.

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Roasting the Roti
Roasting the Roti

The village folk typically roast the roti on a thick clay pan. Their rotis are much thicker than normal rotis, yet very soft.

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Clay Pan
Clay Pan
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Kitchen corner at Ghanshaym's home
Kitchen corner at Ghanshaym's home
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Mixing the clay
Mixing the clay
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Molding on the Electirc Wheel
Molding on the Electirc Wheel
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The Kiln
The Kiln

The wares are hardened by heating in these wood fired concrete furnaces.

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Firing up the kiln
Firing up the kiln
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Black Evenings
Black Evenings

Dozens of furnaces are set on fire around dusk. The smoke from these wood fired kilns blacken out the sky much before night takes over.

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Hookah and Chit-Chat
Hookah and Chit-Chat
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Street Casino
Street Casino

The villagers play a game of 'Delha Pakad'. Though no bets are involved, the game is played with intense interest.

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The Potter's Music System
The Potter's Music System

Who needs military grade equipment !

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Relief Work
Relief Work

Relief work on clay that someone hung up on the street wall.

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