No older Mangalorean can forget the taste and aroma of fish curries cooked in earthen vessels, and all of us appreciate the coolness of water stored in large earthen jars. Older Mangaloreans just cannot forget the goodness of those days when everything was cooked and stored in earthen vessels.
Earthen Vessels in Potter Manoj’s Workshop
Today, we do not purchase earthen pots, jars, and vessels as we once used to. Now that we have utensils made of a variety of metals and plastic pots, bottles, and jugs, we no longer need earthenware. We have discovered that pots made of clay and mud are unwieldy, difficult to handle, and inconvenient. But that doesn’t mean we have stopped loving earthen vessels.
We Still Love Pottery!
According to noted architectural consultants, people still love keeping pieces of pottery inside their homes to enhance the aesthetic value. Beautifully decorated pots placed in different parts of the house give a sense of warmth and closeness to the earth. Mangaloreans may have stopped cooking in earthen vessels, but we still love decorating our homes and gardens with potted plants and earthen vases filled with real or artificial flowers. And during the hot summer days, many of us drink the delicious, ice cold water stored in earthen pots and jars. Mangalore is still the second biggest market for pots in Karnataka, the first biggest being Bangalore.
Plant Pots in Potter Manjo’s Workshop
In addition, Mangalore’s Pilikula Heritage Village, a facility owned and operated by the district administration, preserves and promotes pottery. The village is the home of several potters who conduct workshops for those who want to learn how to make pots. A wide range of ornamental pots and vases, lamps, and other earthenware are produced at this place.
Demand is Highest at Diwali
The potters of Mangalore are busiest at Diwali as everybody wants pots and diyas (small earthen lamps) at this time. They work from sunrise to sunset to meet the huge demand for thousands of diyas and hundreds of pots.
The pots are mostly used for Mosaru Kudike (a festival to celebrate the childhood of Lord Krishna) and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. In Tulu, the larger pots are called “mande,” the mid-sized ones are called “kara,” and the smallest ones are called “kurai.” Two days are required to fasten them to a long bar made of wood, which is called “atte” in Tulu. The pots are painted in bright colors and filled with milk, curds, or just colored water. Soft drinks, packets of crisp snacks, toys, large chakkulis (a crisp snack made of rice flour), and other goodies are tied around these pots.
Making a Pot
Recently, we visited Manoj Kulal, a potter in Kulai, Suratkal, a few kilometres from Mangalore, to actually witness the making of a pot.
Manoj Kulal is a pleasant, friendly person who was simply delighted to give us a demonstration. He showed us his mound of clay and said that he got it from Polali, located in Bantwal, a few kilometres from Mangalore. The place is known for its paddy fields and fine clay. “We first get the clay from Polali and then soak it in water for nearly three days,” said Mr. Kulal.
The Clay from Polali
Soaked for 3 Days
I gathered that there are four major steps to making a pot.
- Soak the clay
- Remove the tiny stones from it.
- Place it on the potter’s wheel and design beautiful pots.
- Fire the damp pots in the kiln.
Removing Stones from Clay
Clay Ready for Making Pots
On the Potter’s Wheel
Shaping the Damp Pot
The Kiln to Fire Pots
However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Making pots is a real art, and Mr. Kulal says that a potter needs 18 hours to make one pot.
A Special Pot used in Temples
Is Pottery Dying in Mangalore?
As attractive as earthen pots are, pottery appears to be a dying trade in Mangalore. It is worth noting that there are hardly any youthful potters. They are all studying in colleges and pursuing office jobs. As one potter puts it, the profession may cease to exist after a decade as young people do not have the time to undergo the several years of training and practice required to become a skillful potter. Younger people are losing interest in the profession as it is no longer profitable. Moreover, the potters hardly get any assistance from the government, the way farmers and weavers do.
Pots in Potter Manoj’s Garden
The Potters of Mangalore – Their Origin
Most of them do not know their origins. They are mostly Hindus belonging to a community called “kulalar,” which has been traditionally involved in making idols, pots, and bricks. According to a popular legend, Brahma the Creator had a son called Kulalan who loved creating and destroying things every day, owing to which he became the world’s first potter.
The potters of Mangalore say that they do not know how their community first started making pots. A few of them remember that they migrated from Andhra Pradesh and settled down in places such as Udupi, Belvai, Mangalore, and Kinnigoli. But most of them simply do not know where they came from. They are just the potters of Mangalore.