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A vanishing trade

A.V.Ragunathan



Pot makers busy at work in Cuddalore

CUDDALORE: The potters are now a vanishing tribe. The last vestiges of the potters can be traced at Chinnakanganankuppam near Cuddalore where a few are still carrying on the trade against many odds.

Of the 40 so-called potter families domiciled there, only seven are now actively involved in pot-making. For them, pots signify not only livelihood but also preservation of tradition and heritage.

Come Pongal, pots are sought after especially by the farmers and the rural populace. Pongal heralds bumper crops and earnings as reward for the toil of the farmers. Hence, it is an occasion to celebrate by cooking the sweet dish in a new pot. The tillers of the land also see this as a thanksgiving time to nature and of course, to the bulls and cows.

Urban dwellers, on the other hand, do not patronise pots to such an extent. Therefore, the potters will soon be relegated to history, as they are fast losing relevance, according to P. Mani (51) of Chinnakanganankuppam, a potter for over three decades.

He is apprehensive about the future of the trade for various reasons such as lack of patronage, restrictions on soil excavation, inclement weather condition, shortage of labour and total disregard and disinclination on the part of the youths to continue with the family business.

Mr. Mani told The Hindu that earlier, the potters virtually had a free run over the water bodies where they could get ample raw materials. But now, they could not access these sources because the authorities had mounted a strict vigil on these water bodies. After getting shape on the potter's wheel, a pot should be exposed to sunlight for about five days after which it would be baked in a kiln. Later, the outer surface would be smoothened and given a red colouring, before hitting the market. The number of pots that will emerge in full shape from the kiln is a matter of conjecture and the numbers would determine the income level of the potter.

Mr Mani said that the average age of a potter now was above 50 years and at this rate, it would be a surprise if the trade survived for more than five years from now.

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