Sunday, February 17, 2008

Potters' festival

Attukal Pongala can be termed a potters festival. If one goes by numbers, it shows an unimaginable figure. Roughly 2,700,000 earthern pots, if last year's participation is taken into account. Even though it is customary to offer Pongala in earthern pots, not every body does so. Some women, prefer to use the brass vessels, which they have been keeping for years for this sole purpose. If you deduct the mathematical output of this feminine superstition or obsession, the figures would still come above 2,000,000. It's an whooping figure! But the potters does not sell much says most of them.

Let's meet Madaswami from Marthandam. He has been making pots since he turned five, now he is sixty four. Hailing from a traditional potter's family, he has been coming to Attukal Pongala for years. He says that pottery is still a cottage industry in Tamil Nadu, and large scale production facilities has not yet arrived. The entire family is involved in the process; men prepares the clay and make the pots while women give finishing touches and get them burnt in the sun. Later they are shifted to a furnace where the pots are burnt in fire. The preparation of the clay itself involves many stages and lack of clay has become a new challenge. Now they have forced buy the clay for making pots which has cut into the profit. Madaswami says that the vocation is divine and requires purity of mind and body. It requires five days to make an earthern pot in the traditional way.

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