BUDGAM: Kashmir’s pottery, once famed and sought after, is now struggling to find takers as well as makers. Families that practised this work for generations suddenly find their new generation uninterested, one of the primary reasons being the lack of any secure income through this profession.
Several families in Charan Gam village in Beerwah tehsil are still earning their livelihood through this profession, but the continuously declining demand of pottery items in local markets has put them in a precarious financial situation.
Tariq Ahmad Kumhar, a youth who belongs to a family of potters, said that his father is not able to earn a decent amount of money from the pottery that he makes.
“I myself am working as a manual labourer, to fulfil the basic needs of my family,” Tariq said.
He added that most of the youths his age, who know the craft very well, are doing work other than pottery work. The young generation, he said, is not able to carry on the family legacy because there is no money to be made any more from it.
Abdul Rashid Kumhar, one of the potters at Charan Gam village, said that he has been doing pottery work for the last 25 years, earning his livelihood from it.
“We make different kinds of things, like household objects, flowerpots, candle stands, kung (firepot), and Kashmiri musical instruments which include Tumbaknaer (Goblet Drum) and Noet (Earthen Pot). We sell these clay-made products at cheap prices in different local markets as well as in other villages of the district. That’s how we are earning our livelihood through this profession,” he said.
However, Abdul said, people have now largely stopped buying things made from clay. “Our livelihood has been affected. People are calling this craft a dying art. The clay by which we make the objects is no more available in our village. We have to go to other places in the district, spending at least one day in the travelling, to fetch the clay,” he said.
“We spend the entire day doing this work in our village, making different kinds of products which could be sold in the markets. Most of the clay objects which people used, especially in the villages, have now become obsolete. They have stopped buying from us. Now we only prepare those products that could be sold in the markets,” Abdul said.
He, too, said that the younger generation is not willing to do this work. “We have to visit the doorsteps of people to sell our clay-made products directly to the customers. The people are becoming annoyed with potters and refuse to buy our products. That is the reason why most people have left this craft. Now the situation is such that people will not allow us to enter their homes due to the pandemic. Also, people now prefer to buy new things which are coming from different markets of the world,” Abdul said.
Elderly women who belong to potter families in Charan Gam village said that when they were young, they would deliver pottery items to the doorsteps of the people in nearby villages. People in those olden times would buy a lot of things from them, and the potter families would earn a good amount of money, they said.
“My son is also doing this work, but people are no longer buying from us. The demand for pottery items is decreasing day by day in the markets. The new generation of potters is missing in the families here,” an elderly woman said.
She recalled fond memories of the days when potters were given respect and a warm welcome to homes in several villages.
Another potter in the village ruled that there is no respect for potters these days and no demand for their work. “There is little chance of preserving this craft. Craftsmen who know this work prefer to do other work to earn enough money to meet the needs of their families,” he said.