Potted Beats – Udaipur, India

In February we went to Udaipur , also known as the “City of Lakes” (James Bond Octopussy) in the state of Rajasthan in India. During a walk we discovered a whole range of small potteries. While youth have diverted to other professions like brick manufacturing or other private or government jobs, elder persons of the family work in the traditional manufacturing of pots as chulhas, pots for water storage, festive products as diya, or others for domestic use.

After clay preparation, about 15-20 pots are made on wheel and kept in open for drying until they become leather hard. The potter keeps extra thickness so that the pot does not break during the beating process. Beating is a method of thinning and compressing the clay wall of a pot by hammering it against an anvil with a paddle. The anvil is a pebble or stone dabber held inside the pot and the paddle is a wooden bat used to beat from the outside. The anvil is locally known as pindi and the paddle is called thapa. Anvils and paddles of different sizes are used, based on the size and surface of the pot.

While beating, finely sieved ash is spread on a portion where potter intends to beat on the pot. The dabber is held in one hand to give support to the surface, while beating from the inner side of the pot with thapa or bat. Beating is done very finely so that no marks are left on the surface. If the pot starts getting hard during beating process, both tools pindi and thapa are dipped in water to maintain the moisture. Once the beating is over, ash is spread over the whole pot and smoothened by hands and the pot is then lifted and carefully placed for drying in the shaded place where the sieved ash is stored. The potter keeps rotating the pot every 20-30 minutes to dry slowly. This is done to prevent the pots from cracking during drying.

All products when finished are usually kept to dry in an open place in the backyard or courtyard. Then the potter fires their products in an open place in their backyard or courtyard, systematically igniting the bonfire using cotton rags. Firings done by this technique are always short and generally achieve relatively low temperatures.