History of Pottery Art in India

History of Pottery Art in India

Pottery art is one of the oldest traditional arts, which involves making objects of clay and hardening them with heat. There is a rich cultural history behind this skilful technique, with millions of artisans that have shaped its story throughout the years in their local regions. Let us explore this interesting world of pottery and find the reason behind the popularity of these objects with clay.

The basic material of pottery is clay, however, various forms of pottery have originated in the past years. Clay is a substance that can be moulded and will retain the shape that is imposed on it. When heat is fired on this substance, its hardening occurs and a brittle object is formed. Clay can also be mixed with other materials to form different kinds of pottery such as stoneware, porcelain and ceramic objects, which are non-porous and opaque. It involves a lot of skill to shape the clay, dry it, turn it and apply heat in order to get the desired shape. Indian artisans have been practising this art for centuries, earliest clues of pottery art history being found even before the Indus Valley Civilization.

History Of Pottery Art In India 

Pottery art remains a widespread practice in India even today, but it is all thanks to those traditional artisans dating back to the mesolithic and neolithic periods, called the Middle stone age and New stone age respectively. In the mesolithic period, Vindhya hunter-gatherers followed the cord-impressed style of pottery which is the oldest known tradition of pottery in South Asia. In the Neolithic age, there were several cultures of pottery, which were practised in different regions, each having its unique design, such as the Ahar Banas culture in Rajasthan, Kunal culture along areas of Haryana, Mehrgarh culture in Balochistan and Rangpur culture in Gujarat. All these developed separately from the Indus Valley civilization, but have some similarities surrounding the overlapping areas. 

In the Indus Valley civilization, pottery products were made in two ways, handmade and wheel made. There were coarse handmade pottery such as jars, bowls and other vessels. Different cultures flourished in the different phases of the Harappan civilization, which involved crude handmade pottery and wheel-made pottery such as storage jars. The Vedic civilization saw the rise of unpainted, handmade ochre-coloured pottery, which is still found in parts of Eastern Punjab, UP and Rajasthan.

Types Of Pottery In India

1. Ochre Coloured Pottery

The Ochre Coloured Pottery culture dates back to the Bronze Age of the Indo-Gangetic plain which shows similarities with the Harappan culture and Vedic culture. It is one of the famous potteries in India which actually consists of a red slip but created an ochre colour on the hands of the archaeologists who discovered it. This gave the name ochre coloured pottery

2.Black and Red Ware Pottery 

The black and red ware pottery culture followed the ochre-coloured pottery culture and is associated with Harappa, Bronze Age and Iron Age in India. This culture was found in places with subsistence agriculture and some ornaments of copper, shell, and terracotta were found. The use of iron is a major standout in the black and red ware pottery, corresponding to the increased use of iron tools in this era.

3.Painted Grey-Ware Pottery

This is a traditional pottery of India and succeeded the black and redware pottery. The painted grey ware pottery culture is linked with the village and urban settlements, domesticated horses, ivory-working, and the emergence of iron mining, and is distinguished by a style of beautiful, grey pottery decorated with geometric designs in black.

4.Northern Black Polished Ware Pottery

The northern black polished ware pottery was found in the urban Iron age and elites were known to use this luxurious type of burnished ceramics. Since the demise of the Indus Valley civilization, this period has been associated with the rise of the Indian subcontinent's first big cities. This type of pottery is distinguished by its shiny black surface with red coloured spots, which are caused by obvious flaws in the high-temperature firing technique.

6 Pottery Making Techniques You Need To Know

1. Handbuilding 

Handbuilding pottery is an old pottery-making method that requires building forms with hands, fingers, and rudimentary tools rather than a pottery wheel. The most commonly used  handbuilding clay techniques are coil building, pinch pottery, and slab building.

How it works: You can make almost anything out of clay once you've mastered the three procedures described above. It is best, to begin with pinching and then progress to coiling before moving on to slab construction.

2. Pinching 

Pinch pot pottery is a simple type of hand-made pottery that has been manufactured from antiquity to the current day. The technique is to take a lob of clay and pinch it into the appropriate shape.

How it works: The procedure of pinching pottery starts with a lump of clay. Thumbs are placed into the centre, and basic walls are formed by pinching and rotating the pot. The pot is then pushed against a flat surface to form a flat base and therefore the floor of the pot is created.

3. Slab Construction 

Slab construction pottery is a style of handbuilding in which walled sections are joined together with slip and scoring.

How it works: In slab construction ceramics, smooth slabs of clay are created around moulds or moulded and carved by hand. After that, the slabs are overlaid. This method of pottery slab building is used to make angular designs that are not possible on a wheel.

4. Coil Construction 

Coil construction pottery is a pottery-making technique which has been used to form clay into containers for thousands of years. It is feasible to make thicker or higher-walled vessels using the coiling process, which was not previously achievable.

How it works: In coil construction ceramics, oiled pots are made by steadily stacking and connecting clay coils with one top of the other. Depending on the desired aesthetic outcome, the coils might be kept visible or softened away. To avoid cracking, it is critical that the coils link well during construction.

5. Wheel Throwing/ Hand Throwing 

Wheel throwing pottery is the technique of shaping clay on a potter's wheel. It is a popular method for creating ceramic mugs, plates and other products.

How it works: On the clay throwing wheel, the potter shapes and forms wet clay, then lets it solidify and dry to a leather-hard state before completing and returning the work to the wheel for getting trimmed.

6. Slip Casting 

Slip casting pottery is a ceramic forming process for pottery and other ceramics, particularly for designs that are difficult to make on a wheel.

How it works: The cast is formed by pouring a liquid clay body slip into plaster moulds and allowing it to create a layer on the inside walls of the mould. Typically, the process takes at least 24 hours for each piece.

5 Important Health Benefits of Pottery Art

  • Creative outlet: Creating pottery gives you a hobby that takes all of your stress away and channels it into something constructive and unique.
  • Increase optimistic outlook: Knowing that when you build something, it will always take the desired shape gives you a positive outlook and correlates it with life.
  • Improve focus: When you are persistently building Indian pottery art, it definitely helps with building patience and focus.
  • Exploring and experimentation: The importance of pottery art is that there are so many different varieties, cultures and traditions to explore, that it automatically interests you and enhances curiosity.
  • Reduce stress: Creating something constructive gives you an outlet and channels your stress into a positive area. 

Which States In India Are Known For Pottery?

  • Rajasthan’s Molela Murtikala: The Molela Murtikala is an ancient art form home to the Molela village on the banks of the river Banas in Rajasthan. Molela Murtikala, also known as terracotta clay craft, is centred around the creation of colourful votive terracotta plaques of deities which are purchased by tribals twice a year.
  • West Bengal’s Terracotta Pottery: West Bengal's Murshidabad, Birbhaum, Jessore, Hooghly, and Digha towns have the best terracotta sheet designs. Terracotta clay is typically a combination of two or more types of clay found in river bottoms, pits, and drains. They are combined and given gorgeous shapes and patterns in terracotta pottery.
  • Uttar Pradesh's Black Clay Pottery: This black clay pottery is found in Nizamabad,  in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, India, and is distinguished by its dark lustrous body and carved silver designs. Sharp twigs may be used to make geometric patterned grooves with a floral design. They are smoke burned with rice husks in confined kilns, giving them their distinctive lustrous black appearance.
  • Gujarat’s Khavda Pottery: For years, craftsmen in the little town of Khavda, Bhuj, Gujarat, have been creating earthen pots using the same technique of khavda pottery and designs as those shown in Indus Valley excavations. In Khavda pottery Gujarat, soft clay is formed into a pot on a wheel and dried in the shade before the Kumbhar women adorn each item of pottery with distinctive culture-specific designs using red, black, and white clay-based paints.


This is the awe-inspiring and incredible story of pottery art throughout history that gives us a unique perspective on the hard work and skills of the expert artisans who perform this art. iTokri offers a special range of handmade ceramics, pots and other home decor and kitchenware items that are crafted by Indian artisans throughout the country, in their specialised designs and patterns to create beautiful products that make you feel closer to your homeland.


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