KV Network

Hands that chiseled marvels from soil

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Tousif Raza
Kashmir has lost several of its classical arts and crafts while there are few such artistic traditions, which have been decaying very fast. The revival looks now a distant dream. Pottery is one of such arts, which was once very popular and beloved in Kashmir.
No doubt there have been millions of progressions in living standards through the development in science; such development has stolen our past from our hands too. The artists involved in this art where called Kral in Kashmir.
The craft was spread over numerous villages and it’s objects were used very commonly. The potter used to make numerous utensils, which were commonly used in local domestic cultural settings.
From large vessels to miniature cups and candles were made in clay and then backed. The potters used to carry then these objects to their respective adjacent villages to sell their produce.
Pottery has a long history in this land. Articles of pottery had been used from earliest times. The archeological sites of Burzahama and Gufkral which are dated to 5000 years back also revealed several evidences of ancient Kashmiri pottery.
The medieval period sites Avantipora, Devsar and Martand exposed fragments of number of earthen vessels such as Jars, Gharas, Handis, Jugs and Bowls. Incense Burners, Bottles and Earthen Lamps. Cups were also made for serving especially during functions in the different areas of Kashmir.
Women in Kashmir used earthen pots to keep milk and curd formation. For storage of grains heavy vessels locally called Matts were used very commonly. Almost every Kashmiri home had a heavy vessel used to warm water. It was ingeniously placed at the back of earthen heater (Daan or Daambur) to receive heat from it. Rarely it is still used in villages of Kashmir but the copper water vessels are used instead of clay vessels. Rice, Tea and many other food items were cooked on that earthen heater and were eaten in clay pots also.
It was very interesting to take food in pottery bowls. These earthen potteries were in great demand in local markets till very late. Still few pottery items are being used. Earthen bowls are still preferred for serving of milk for special occasions like marriage parties.
However, the tradition of using pottery items collapsed soon when variety of machines made pots of metal and crockery reached the corners of the valley during the last decades of the century. The old potteries turned outdate which resulted in discouraging the making of pottery utensils.
It forced the village potters to shift their business to other trades. Potteries are now rarely seen in few odd villages who are still engaged in making of few pottery objects. The bowls of clay are used for making Kangries and the rest has almost decayed and there is no apparent hope of its revival.
Matt is a big backed earthen jar, locally known by this name. It has remained a very important storage pot, for preservation of extra food grains which mostly consisted either of rice or of maize.
The tradition of cultivating wheat has been very poor in this land. Although in olden times it was only earthen pottery which was involved in domestic usage and “matt” was perhaps the biggest pottery object made for housing of extra grains. Besides matt and Laupun (Unbaked heavy earthen jar) this was the tradition of forming granaries of heavy wooden logs and sheets.
This is locally called “Kuth”. Such granaries are even today seen in larger numbers in our rural areas. It is considered very essential for housing of extra grains. The extra grains are first stored in wooden granaries “Kuth”and later on the husk portion of those grains are collected in bigger earthen jars and served after proper cooking throughout the entire winter to its families.
No doubt today the new technologies had made us available different other storage boxes, but earthen poetry had its own way of preservation. These were cheap and hardly movable. It also suited to our environment and climate. This is because of these merits that these outdated ones are still used in many rural areas of the valley. At some places the excavated earthen jars have been put into reuse for the purpose.
The earliest discoveries of these heavy jars were reported from the courtyard of the sun temple at Martand were dozens of different sized jars were recovered by archeologists in early twenties.
Few such jars were also dug out from the temple premises of Avantipora. These heavy jars were believed then to have served as granaries for housing of the temple offerings. As these temple foundation are usually dated to seventh to eighth century AD, so are dated these jar finds.
The recovery of these earthen jars has been made throughout the land even from its frontier areas. Only a few are collected at suitable places. At many other places of Kashmir are these jars found. It directly signifies the fact that these jars were used in early times commonly and we should preserve our heritage if we can’t revive it.

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