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Important Types of Pottery in India

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  • Last Updated : 25 Oct, 2022
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One of the most prominent features of Indian Art is Pottery. It has its history which talks about its uniqueness and evolution in due course of time. In this article, we are going to discuss different types of pottery in India. This topic is a part of Indian Art and Culture which is very important for competitive exams like SSC, UPSC, Railways, and others.

Pottery in India: An Introduction

  • Evidence of pottery has been found in an early settlement of Mehrgarh in the Indus civilization. It is a cultural art that is still widely practised in India today. Pottery plays an important role in the study of culture and the reconstruction of the past.
  • Historically, styles of pottery have changed along with unique cultures. It reflects the social, economic, and environmental conditions of a thriving culture, helping archaeologists and historians to understand our past. It is of great value in understanding cultures where writing does not exist or has not been deciphered.
  • The three key elements of pottery analysis are texture, shape, and decoration.
  • The shape or morphology of a pot consists of four main elements: base, body, neck, and rim.
  • The dough is the outer physical surface of the pottery and is a combination of factors such as the clay used, the mix of pushers, and the firing technique (oxidation and reduction).  
  • Another aspect of pottery is decoration and surface treatment.

Important Types of Pottery in India:

1. Ochre Colored Pottery

  • This is a Bronze Age culture of the Indian Ganges plains, generally dating from 2000 to 1500 BC. It extends from eastern Punjab to northeastern Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh. Artefacts from this culture show similarities to both the Late Harappan and Vedic cultures.
  • As its name suggests, its main feature is an ocher colour that makes it look as if it has been badly fired. Other distinguishing features are the porous texture and weathering of the edges of the shards (fragments of ceramic material).
  • It was sometimes decorated with black-painted bands and notched designs. Often found in association with copper vaults, accumulations of artefacts such as copper weapons and anthropomorphic figures.

2. Black and Red Ware Pottery

  • It is associated with the Neolithic, Harappa, Bronze Age India, Iron Age India, Megalithic, and early historical epochs. In the West Ganges plains (West Uttar Pradesh), In the western Gangetic plains, the BRW was preceded by a culture of other pottery. Cultures such as the Ahar-Banas saw white linear designs on black and red pottery.
  • The BRW site was characterized by subsistence farming (rice, barley, and legume cultivation) and produced ornaments made of shells, copper, carnelian, and terracotta.

3. Painted Grey-Ware Pottery

  • It is the Iron Age Indian culture of the western Ganges plains and the Ghaggar-Hakra valleys of the Indian subcontinent, generally dating from 1200-600 to 500 BC.
  • It features a fine grey ceramic style painted black with geometric patterns.
  • PGW culture is associated with the emergence of the village and urban settlements, domesticated horses, ivory processing, and ferrous metallurgy.
  • Pottery has a red surface and is generally turned on a potter’s wheel, but there are also hand-made ones. Its polish was good. Most of the pottery is polychromatic. That means two or more colours are used to colour the pottery and it usually has a flat bottom. Geometric designs can be seen along with paintings depicting flora and fauna. It has also been found that perforated ceramics can be used for alcohol sieving.
  • Pottery across civilizations was uniform (massively thrown), revealing a form of control and leaving less room for individual creativity. The presence of extravagant pottery originating from specific locations indicates the economic stratification of society.
  • It is an urban Iron Age Indian culture in the Indian subcontinent. It developed around 700 BC. In the late Vedic period it peaked from 500-300 BC coinciding with the emergence of 16 major states or Mahajanpadas in northern India, followed by the rise of the Maurya Empire.

4. Northern Black Polished Ware Pottery

  • Important sites in India: Indraprastha (Delhi). Hastinapura, Mathura, Kampilya, Ahichhatra, Ayodhya, Sravasti, Kausambi, and Varanasi, are all in Uttar Pradesh. Vaishali, Rajgir, Pataliputra and Champa of Bihar. Ujjain and Vidisha (M.P)
  • It is a shiny type of ceramic with lustre, made of fine fabric, it was used as tableware for the wealthy. It is considered a sumptuous piece of pottery found only among the elite that reveals the social strata that are the result of Brahman supremacy. 
  • It is divided into two categories: Bichrome and Monochrome. Monochrome pottery is a fine, thin fabric. Cast on high-speed wheels for an impressive glossy finish. 90% of this type is jet black, brownish black, or bluish-black, and 10% have colours such as pink, gold, and brown. Bichrome pottery is rarely seen. It shows all the characteristics of monochrome except that it shows a combination of two colours.
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