Terracotta Plaques of Molela

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Have you seen these terracotta items somewhere? Perhaps in urban homes, resorts, farmhouses or hotels. I too have seen them. I knew where do they come from. Not just that, I frequently visit that district under which this little Potter’s town comes. But as is the case, I did never visit this little town of Molela. Till this rainy season.

Molela is in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan and is near to the well known temple city of Nathdwara. It can also be done as a day excursion from Udaipur. It is a small routine village, just like any other village we pass through our journeys. Some thirty families in the village are engaged in this art of clay. One can roam around to find the work of his or her interest.

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Legend has it that there was a blind potter who dreamed of God Devnarayan. God Devnarayan asked him to dig clay at nearby place and make his idol. Next morning his vision was restored. He made the image of god in a two-dimensional plate instead of a three dimensional statue. This design of Devnarayan on a horse was the first design of this craft. This craft is unique in that gods and goddesses are depicted in a two-dimensional way instead of three-dimensional statues elsewhere, and the figurines are hollow.

Traditionally, this craft has catered to the needs of the tribal communities who change the votive plaques of their Gods regularly. Every year, during the Hindi month of Magh( January- February), Bhil, Meena, Gujjar and other tribes from Rajasthan as well as MP and Gujarat come to Molela to buy clay plaques of gods and goddesses of their tribe. With the end of rainy season, the busy season for these potters start. They make large number of clay votive plaques in anticipation of sales.

 Votive plaque of Rama Pir

votive plaque of Rama Pir

The process of buying the new votive plaques in itself is an event. Tribals come with their priest who selects the plaques. Once bought, the plaques are carried to the nearby river Banas in a great procession. There the deity is worshiped and then taken to the village to be installed in the temple.

we visited the house of Ramesh Kumhar, whose father Khemraj Kumhar was awarded the Rashtrapati medal for his artistic skills in this art of terracotta plaques. We were taken to a display room where a whole world of clay art comprising decorative, religious and functional items, opened to us. There were five female figurine statues on a plaque which is hung as a welcome plaque. A series of plates depicted daily chores of rural life, drawing water from the well, working in fields, cooking and dancing. Many animals like cows, tortoise, elephants, horses were displayed along with utility items like water jug, milk pot, diyas, Tawa( flat pans to cook chapatis). It shows how well the rural artisans have adapted their art according to markets.

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Two small chambers were filled with clay. One had clay with high sand content and other had fine clay. These two clay are mixed together and donkey dung is added to it to make the clay pliable. Molela clay is dug from the banks of local pond of the village.

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Kids confused these beads to be donkey dung. It made all of us burst into laughter and exposed our urban mind’s urban ideas!

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Our request to show the various work in progress took us to different rooms. While one room stored many plaques of war scenes arranged in rows for a client, another stored elephants and horses.

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One room stored many suns as well, stacked neatly. A message well drawn: with so many wars and conflicts, perhaps we will need more than one sun to enlighten the mankind.

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Another room had freshly completed plaques of Krishna’s life depicting scenes of his childhood and early youth’s mischief.

Ramesh told us that the wet plaques are first left to dry in shade for a week and then dried in the sun for two-three days. Then these are baked in a brick made kiln. It being the rainy season, no baking was being done and kiln area was sown for maize crop. Finally these are colored as per the requirement of customer

There was this interesting plaque depicting many gods at one place- Krishna was in his cross-leg pose on Kaliya naag; Durga, Devnarayan and Ganesha also found a place.

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Every room had Ganesha in one form or another. Our obsession for the two pot-bellied gods, Ganesha and Laughing Buddha has turned these into house decor items. A basket full of Ganesha was waiting to be packed and shipped.

There is a popular belief that if we want Ganesha idol as auspicious symbol, we can buy those who have their trunk turned towards left-hand side. Only the idol which has its trunk towards its right hand need to be worshiped daily. How clever and Jugadu we human beings are! We want God’s idol to be in home so that he can bring luck and prosperity for us, but do not want the trouble of worshiping Him everyday. So we devise a plan- on a larger level, we appoint a Pujari to take care of God daily and we go to His abode as per our convenience; on a smaller level because we can not appoint a Pujari, we just turn his trunk to this or that side and hope to get all his blessings. Sometimes I do wonder- who made whom?

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Once we were done with seeing and buying, we requested him to make something live for us. A small blob of prepared clay transformed to a Ganesh idol( more Ganesha!) in less than fifteen minutes. It included rolling, squeezing, pinching to get a desired shape. Clay coils were made to add finer features. Lastly a knife like instrument added the details of fingers, jewelry, eye brows.

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We brought some ready clay with us and kids made……….What else?
A Ganesha!

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Travel Tips:
1. Molela can be included in a trip to Nathdwara and Haldighati, from Udaipur.
2. It is 55-60 Kms from Udaipur.
3. Try to visit Molela in first half of the day when you can see potters making this art.

20 Comments

    1. hi, am working at molela . whenever u come. pl contect me. thnxs, dr. gagan dadhich, studio25 terracotta, molela, thnxs,

  1. Hi Manish,

    Please get in touch urgently… We would like to use your photographs of terra-cotta from Molela for publication in a magazine.

    Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you.

    Best
    Neharika

  2. Hello Niharika

    Thanks for showing interest.
    Could you please tell me the intended use/ publication with name, purpose, context etc.

    Thanks and regards
    Jaishree

  3. hello people.. m an architect looking for a pottery artist in udaipur.. can u suggest anyone staying in udaipur???

    1. hi, thnxs for taking interest in clay…my residential studio at molela village and am living at nathdwara , 50 km far from udaipur…i am ceramist and terracotta artist but i can arrenge a potter , but just make clear that what type of work do you want from potter…i mean pottery work on whill or terracotta plate work. its my contect no- 9413026135. thnxs, gagan b, dadhich, prof. and head- fine art dept. govt. collage- nathdwara, rajsamand, rajasthan

  4. Hello Dinesh Ji and Jaishree…Can you please tell me if these tiles are also sold online? I checked a couple of websites but could not find it anywhere. Please guide.

    1. hi priyanka g,,thnxs for taking interest for treditonal terracotta from molela village,,,i think, its not available on line and i suggest you to come and select the plaques from diffrent potters,,,u haveopen choice at molela, thnxs

      1. So do I need to go to Molela ? Is there anyway to get them to Delhi ? Can someone get it for me? Given my schedule not sure when will I be able to go…

        1. g morng priyanka,,,,if u like then i will arrenge to send u from my potter friends from molela, gud day,

          r terra stuff to delhi,,,i will manage

          1. That wud be grea. Please mail me some pics of samples with costing and packing details. However I was wondering if we get these in Delhi haat… Do u know anything?

            1. ys,,molela potters generaly exhib their terra at delhi hat …better to wait and contect their, thnxs

  5. I want to make pots as per my design in terracotta for a good cause. Basically planters. Anyone will make it in molela? Animal planters, Buddha planters, toys planters,cars planters.

    My contact no is 8469110069

  6. looking for terracotta art for the exterior (outer side) of front wall of residence at Gujarat. 25 feet to 6 feet size vertical wall.

    Please call me on 9979077555

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