Ode to potters this Diwali: video and pictures of making earthen diyas

Ode to potters this Diwali: video and pictures of making earthen diyas

Potter making earthen lamp clay lamp or diya for diwali. Pottery craft is going down as more and more people are now shifting to electric lights and metal diyas.

Diwali is synonymous with lights and diyas. The little earthen lamps are not just sources of light, they represent hope, positivity and are symbolic of the victory of good over evil. The epic Ramayana mentions about residents of Ayodhya, Lord Rama’s birth place, lighting up the city with diyas when he returned home after 14 years in exile. Since then, it is customary to light earthen lamps on Diwali.

But with time, convenience and technology have taken over, reducing the importance of diyas. People opt for colourful electric lighting both indoors and outdoors in place of these small earthen beauties. Many have switched to metal lamps, which do away with the need for annual purchase of diyas on the festival of lights.

As a result, thousands of potters across India are suffering from lack of income and are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

They work hard to make the diyas, for which the market is declining.

Be they the potters of Kumbharwada in Mumbai’s Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, or in the Kumhar Gram (Potters’ Village) in Delhi, their plight is the same.

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The making of diyas is a laborious exercise. Clay from rivers and ponds is collected during summers when they are dry; this indirectly helps in cleaning up the river so that it can store more water during monsoons.

The clay is filtered and soaked in water before it is kneaded with feet or using machines to make it lump-free.

Most potters cannot afford machines and do it manually. The clay is then put on a potter’s wheel and shaped into diyas. Once started, the wheel can continue for hours with the potter constantly shaping and removing diyas and keeping them all around him for drying.

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Dried diyas are put in kilns, which are fully covered with soil to maintain the desired temperature. The kilns cool down after 10 to 12 hours and then the pottery is removed. The diyas can be sold as they are or painted in bright colours and decorated with mirrors etc. They are then ready to brighten up our lives during the five-day Diwali festival, which starts with Dhan Teras and ends with Bhai Dooj. Here is our ode to potters this Diwali through pictures and a video on diya-making:

A potter in Kumbharwada, Dharavi, prepares the clay.
A potter in Kumbharwada, Dharavi, prepares the clay. Pic: Flickr
The clay is kneaded with feet to achieve a smooth consistency.
The clay is kneaded with feet to achieve a smooth consistency. Pic: Flickr

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It is then put on the pottery wheel for preparing the pottery.
It is then put on the pottery wheel for preparing pottery. Pic: Flickr
Expert hands give shape to diyas.
Expert hands give shape to diyas. Pic: Flickr
Pottery requires both skill and precision.
Pottery requires both skill and precision. Pic: Flickr

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The diyas are allowed to dry in the sun before being put in the kiln.
The diyas are allowed to dry in the sun before being put in the kiln. Pic: Flickr
After drying, they are put in the kiln.
After drying, they are put in the kiln. Pic: Flickr
The kiln is covered with cow dung, soil etc to maintain temperature
The kiln is covered with cow dung, soil etc to maintain temperature. Pic: Flickr

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It cools down after about 12 hours when the diyas are removed.
It cools down after about 12 hours when the diyas are removed. Pic: Flickr
Geru, a natural earthen colour, is often used to colour and brighten the diyas.
Geru, a natural earthen colour, is often used to colour and brighten the diyas. Pic: Flickr

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Diyas are also painted with colours and decorated for Diwali.
Diyas are also painted with colours and decorated for Diwali. Pic: Flickr
The earthen lamps brighten up homes during the five-day Diwali festival.
The earthen lamps brighten up homes during the five-day Diwali festival. Pic: Flickr

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