Rubul Hira D.El.Ed Trainee, DIET Kamrup
Rubul Hira

The making of pottery is an important event of prehistoric age which marked the begining of Neolithic revolution in human society . It's impact had largely revolutionized the colonization of human groups and paved a new way of cultural tradition . This tradition is also an occupation for a few communities which is continuing by a few communities throughout the world. Here, at this point we can review the description of the pottery making tradition of the local "Hira" community of Assam and the techniques used by them in their everyday lives . They inherited the technology of pottery making from their forefathers. The method of producing raw materials, processing the same and ending up with the final product take a toll on their energy that has been depicted nicely through a vivid description .

Through tbe use of clay and water in order to give definite shapes for different purpose can be identified as the oldest craft known to human culture . In Assam, there are two groups of people who have been traditionally involved in the art of making pottery for generations . The Hira's manufacturr pots with hands by using some paddles or beaters and dabbers, where one uses wheels for giving a shape to the pots are known as the Kumars . Both the groups---- Hira and Kumars are a certain community eho dwell in terms of their social, customs, religion, occupation and economy. Still their positions in the society or in Hindu social organization are very varied. Apart from the sharp technological variations between the Hira and Kumar potters, the function of their pots are also different . Being original inhabitant and living for generations in the same villages, these professionals often have their ethnic settlements named after themselves such as -- Hirapara, Hira suba , Kumarpara , Kumar suba and Kumargaon etc.

Some different steps of manufacturing process are enlisted as follows------

  1. Raw material used in pottery making
  2. Techniques used for pottery making
  3. Final product and marketization

Materials for production:

Raw material used in pottery making:

Ceramics are composed of three basic raw materials. The first and most important is the sticky fine grained sediment that becomes plastic and mouldable when wet .

Pocurement of raw materials: The essential raw materials for making pottery can be produced mainly from natural resources. The basic raw material is the soil which is easily available in the surroundings . The other raw materials include the colours for the purpose of painting as well as decoration of the pots . Last but not least is the day when wood , husk and straw are used as fuel for firing purposes. All types of soil(maati) doesn't suit to prepare all types of pottery . Locally the soil which the potters of Hira community use is the the black fine soil(kalimitti) which they bring from the nearest river through spade (khana) in nature . For painting purpose they generally use one type of colour red (lal mati ). These colours are extracted from the local mines .For firing the pot's, dried out bushes and woods are collected from the nearby forest and they collect the grain husk and straws from their own agricultural field after the harvesting. The potters who don't have their own agricultural field, they collect it from other communities in exchange of pots . This is one type of barter continuing in the village.

Techniques used for pottery making:

The main interesting fact about Hira potters is that where the shaping the pots is done by the women community, preparation of clay is done by both man and woman . The hard soil is pounded with wooden club called mati-khunda-gaain (long wood). If the soil is sticky, it is flattened on the wooden plank by kneading . Generally Hiras use fine sand as the only tempering material for the preparation of clay.

Once the raw materials are combined the clay tempered mixture must be made elastic by adding water and carefully blending the mixture. This blending serves to make the paste homogenious as well as to eliminate the air pockets within the material. Once the clay is well mixed, while desire elasticity with moisture content and become a paste of required consistency, the prepared clay is kept aside giving it a shape of a round ball ( matir loda ).

Hand building tecunology:

Hand building technology is one of the main important technology of Hira community .Among the most common hand building technique is coiling . The potters shape the prepared clay into long , narrow coils by rolling it against a hard surface or between both the hands . The coils can be used to form a base or can be added on to a base formed by another technique . The walls of the vessel are gradually built up by successively adding one more coil . The potters may moisten the outer part of the coil to help them to adhere to each other more strongly (Sinopoli 1991) . Another important technique is the use of moulds ,where prepare slabs are passed onto over a prepared mould , which is generally of plaster , stone ,fired clay or may be simply a base of a broken vessel.

The most unique feature of the Hira potters is that they don't use potters wheel for manufacturing pottery . Among the Hiras the craft is exclusively reserved for the women. The potters sit on a cloth mat and keep infront of her one boulder which is placed on a roll of straw . She uses at least 3/4 wooden sticks (pitini) for beating the pot .Another boulder of smaller size is used as dabber .The sizes of these boulders vary and depend on the size of the pot to be manufactured . Basically the potters of Dakshin Kamrup use the coiling and pinching methods . However , the formation of a complete pot involves different stages.

First stage:--- In the first stage , the required portion of clay is taken from the prepared lump and some small disk of clay (is called Dan) are modelled on the palm of the hands and placed on the cloth mat or in the floor directly . Next day these are further moistened with water and placed on the bigger boulder (Dan ghencha sil ) on which it is rotated and beaten smoothly with the beater .

Second stage :--- When the dans are ready after one day , then the potters make earthen roll , known locally as "Nari" is the edge or brim of the curved disc affixed by pressing it with the help of fingers . This method is called the "Nari logowa" . Now it takes the shape of a somewhat rounded bowl and again kept for drying up for another day . Next day the small rounded boulder (sorupita sil) is held inside the bowl and beaten with the beater (sorupitini) .

Third stage :--- In the third stage, it looks like a complete bowl and is followed by adding of coils according to the intended size of the pot . The pots, after affixing the rolls are left for a day . For big or small dabbar , koloah . Kata , lurka the maker moves around the pots for attaching thick earthen coils and beating the walls .The neck (kankara)of the pot is made next day . It is nothing , but more coils added up succesively one after another.

The final product and marketization:

Basically most of the pots are used for storing water but some are used for other specific purpose . The local names of the tools are -- soru sil, Dangar sil, soru pitini , Dangar pitini, one bamboo stick.

And the local names of the pots are -- Dangar dabbar, soru dabbar , xoru kata , Dangar kata, Lurka, Dangar lurka, Soru lurka , koloah , pitha khowa kata , patsoru , Beriya , Sana beriya, Telpitha khawa kata, Jonga , xoru jonga , Nagara , Tukuri , Doba etc .


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  3. Bandopadhyay , B.(1961).Hira potters of assam man in India 41(1) 25 -44.
  4. Sinopoli.C.m (1991) approaches to addhacological ceramics New Work:plenum press. Etc.