Clay craft is probably one of the earliest creations of man. The discovery of the remnants of clay crafts at the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh (now in Pakistan) points to the existence of Clay pottery as a highly skilled art form as early as 6000 B.C. The typical grey coloured pottery known as the ‘Painted Grey Ware’ appeared during the Vedic period (1500-600 B.C.). This marks the beginning of the Iron Age in Northern India.

Archaeological findings suggest that the ‘Black and Red Pottery’ flourished in Bengal around 1500 B.C. and continued until the 3rd century B.C.  The highly lustrous pottery, known as the ‘Northern Black Polished Ware’, made its appearance in two phases; first, during 700-400 B.C. and later during 400-100 B.C., partly coinciding with the Mauryan Period. The remnants of “roulette pottery” have been discovered in Arikamedu near Puducherry, which have been dated at 2nd-1st century B.C. The decorated pottery emerged during the Gupta Period (300-600 A.D.), which was characterized by embellishment, painting, stamping and moulding. The advent of Islam saw the emergence of glazed pottery.

Pottery has been described as the “lyric of handicrafts” because of its irresistible and sensual appeal. In India pottery making is spread over a huge geographical area, giving rise to a beautiful, distinct and wide range of pottery.  Thus, we come across the colourful ‘Khurja Pottery’ (Khurja), ‘Black Pottery’ (Azamgarh) and glazed tiles (Chunar and Chinhat) in Uttar Pradesh; the ‘Blue Pottery’ made out of ‘Multani mitti’ (Jaipur), ‘Kagzi pottery’(Alwar), ‘Pokhran Pottery’ (Pokhran) and the painted pottery (Bikaner) in Rajasthan; glazed ‘Dalgate Pottery’ (Srinagar) in Jammu & Kashmir; ‘Karigiri Pottery’ (South Arcot) in Tamil Nadu; ‘Black Pottery’ (Ukhrul) in Manipur; ‘Surai’ or the common jug in West Bengal; large storage vessels (Khanapur) in Karnataka; ‘Gopichandan’ (Saurashtra) and the beautiful ‘gidya’, ‘patri’ and ‘narele’ crafts in Himachal Pradesh.

Terracotta (“baked earth”) is hard, semi-fired waterproof ceramic clay, which has been extensively used for sculpture and architectural edifices, besides making pottery and bricks. The ‘Bankura Horse‘, the ‘Panchmura Horse’ and the Terracotta Temples of Bishnupur in the Bankura district of West Bengal and the Buddhist ‘viharas’ of the Pala period are the best specimens of terracotta sculpture in India.

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