Terracotta is an ancient form of art and craft that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. It was introduced by Persia in 1212 AD when Chengiz Khan invaded China. The Rajasthani terracotta artworks are known for their intricate workmanship endowed with a unique character and style.
This traditional art form originated from the village of Molela in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. The art has evolved throughout the years but still remains popular for its intricate work. The villagers of Molela still use Terracotta pots and utensils for cooking food. For ages, they have been using it to make decorative pieces of idols, pots, and plaques.
Terracotta art is a prominent part of Rajasthani culture because of the beliefs of the villagers who worship their terracotta deities. It is used for making idols of gods and goddesses like Dharamraj Ji and Dev Narayan Ji. There are several temples in southern Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which use the beautiful terracotta figurines from Molela. The idols are replaced every year with the new ones and this tradition is celebrated in the form of a festival by all tribes of the area.
The Terracotta figurines are hollow from inside thus giving a lightweight to the art pieces. These use a method in which less clay is used and it also prevents the formation of cracks. Not just within India but these artworks are quite popular across the world. In fact, thousands of pieces of Terracotta artworks are exported to foreign countries.
Terracotta items are prepared by the Maru Kumhars (potters) of Molela village, located near Udaipur. The most famous items include plaques that depict the ceremonial images of Gods and Goddesses and depict the mythological stories.
The clay used in making these items is a local fine-grained variety containing alumina, silica, and alkaline-based materials like lime. It is then mixed with sand and is kneaded to form a flexible dough.
To make idols, a slab is made with a dome-shaped upper part and the edges are lifted to form a rim. The idols are placed in the centre of the slab and shaped in the desired form with hollow structure so that the idols don’t burst in the furnace. After this, the idols are decorated with clay beads.
Figurines are made through techniques like pinching, rolling, Pressing, and squeezing. When the plaques are ready they are dried in the furnace for nine days and for the finishing touch, these are painted with mineral or stone colors.