Handicrafts are an amalgamation of all the things that are crafted by man’s hand and pottery has been known as lyrics of handicraft as it is modeled like as poetic composition and has a sensual appeal to the senses. Since ancient time it has been the symbol of status, culture and growth of civilizations. It allowed human race for the storage and transport of a range of materials as well as acting as an artistic medium for thousands of years.
Remnants of pottery can be particularly useful for reconstructing how past groups lived. For example, pottery is very useful in defining societal roles. Pottery can be used to determine a person’s social ranking, gender, or even possibly their relationship to others in the group. Archaeologists use pottery and the designs placed upon it to decipher how various areas within the archaeological site were used. For example, one would expect to find pottery in a food preparation or cooking area, but would not expect to find it in a sleeping area.
Evidence of pottery has been found in the early settlements of Mehrgarh from the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, it is a cultural art that is still practiced extensively in India. Pottery plays an important role in studying culture and reconstructing the past.
Historically with distinct culture, the style of pottery changed. It reflects the social, economic and environmental conditions a culture thrived in, which helps the archaeologists and historians in understanding our past. It holds significant value in understanding cultures where script was either absent or remains undeciphered.
How does pottery reflects society and culture:
First reference of pottery in neolithic age. Naturally it is hand-made pottery but during the later period foot wheel is also used.
Chalcolithic Era, the first metal age, is marked by the occurrence of distinct cultures in various parts of our country namely – Ahar culture in South Eastern Rajasthan, Malwa culture in Western MP, Jorwe culture in Western Maharashtra, etc.
People of this age used different kinds of pottery like black-and-red-ware Pottery; Black-on-red ware; Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP); Polished Ware Pottery; etc.
Pottery throughout the civilization was uniform (mass thrown)revealing some form of control and leaving less space of individual creativity
Presence of luxurious pottery obtained from certain sites reveals economic stratification in the society
Burial pottery was specially and distinctly made in Harappa reveals the Harappan belief in life after death. Presence or absence of this pottery in the grave goods reflected social stratification.
Black-grey burnished wareproduced on slow wheel, found in Swat Valley, showed a connection that Swat Valley was associated with Harappa.
The later Vedic people were acquainted with 4 types of pottery – Black-and-red ware, black-slipped ware, painted grey ware and red ware.
Towards the very end of Later Vedic Age around 6th century BC, we see the emergence of 2nd phase of urbanization(1st being Indus Valley Civilization). This era marked the beginning of the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW).
Glossy, shining type pottery was made of fine fabric and served as tableware for richer class. Considered deluxe pottery only found with the elites revealing societal stratification which was a result of Brahmanical hegemony. This pottery continued to exist during the Mahajanapada era. Found in Ahichatra, Hastinapur (both in UP), Navdatoli (Madhya Pradesh).
Use of the potters wheel became universal. The pottery associated with the Mauryan period consists of many types of ware. But the most highly developed technique is seen in a special type of pottery known as the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP), which was the hallmark of the preceding and early Mauryan periods.
The NBP ware is made of finely levigated alluvial clay, which when seen in section is usually of a grey and sometimes of a red hue.
Pottery flourished as the Sunga rulers like the Mauryans were royal patrons of varied forms of art.
Clay figurines were used both for religious and secular purposes. There are figurines of Vishnu, Kartikeya, Surya, Durga, Kubera, Nagas and other gods and goddesses. Gupta pottery remains found at Ahichchhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford an outstanding proof of the excellence of pottery. The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the red ware.
Terracottas form another important branch of the Gupta art. In this modestmedium, gifted clay-modellers created things of real beauty and achieved a wide popularbasis for their art. Clay figurines served aspoor man’s sculpture and contributed largely to popularise art and culture.
The terracotta figures may be classified under two heads, (a) gods and goddesses, (b) male and female figures.
The Kushan cultural phase in Bengal and North Indian sites brought a new horizon in ceramic craft. The characteristic pottery of this phase is marked by a unique red polished ware with stamped design along with a large number of dull or sturdy red ware. The diagnostic red ware is treated with a bright red slip.
The art of glassware got great impetus during the medieval period. Mughal rulers provided patronage to the craft of glass making. The credit of introducing the art of glass engraving in India goes to the Mughals.