KUMBHARWADA (POTTER’S COLONY), MUMBAI

Kumbhar Wada is a community of over 100 families located in Dharavi, Mumbai. Along the narrow lanes, craftsmen are seen making beautiful items of pottery surrounded by the smell of fresh clay. The community is busy throughout the year preparing different types of pots which are used for almost every festival/ occasion. They also carry out commercial productions for various companies and customize larger clay works on order.

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The clay is grey because of the high density of coal present in the raw clay from Gujarat. These pots will turn white once fired. 

The potters had moved from Gujarat to Mumbai around 100 years ago. There are two religious groups living there (Muslims and Hindus); irrespective of their religion they proudly call themselves kumbhars (potters) and all of them work collectively, supporting each other as a community. Usually the women of the community contribute to the cleaning of clay, preparations and decorating while men do the making.  The community gets raw clay from Kutch, Bhuj and Rajasthan which they prepare manually. You can find terrecotta and stoneware works in this area. All the pottery making work is conducted in the morning before starting up the kilns every afternoon. While most potters still use the Bhattis (traditional kilns), some families have started developing their own gas kilns to avoid pollution and to have better control of the temperatures.

The potters live and work in the same area, making it a really close society. As you enter, there are thin lanes with houses on both sides, potters involved with their activities and children running around. It feels like you are far away from Mumbai, even though it is located in the heart of the city . The best time to visit this place is in the morning at around 10 am when the actual making takes place. The potters here are extremely skilled and it is a joy to watch them, they will happily converse with you and show you their work. It is also a great place to buy diyas (oil lamps) and other pottery directly from the source.

A lady preparing large quantities  clay manually.

A lady preparing large quantities clay manually.

The making

The making

Mini Lord Ganesha deities

Mini Lord Ganesha deities

Traditional kiln firing in the afternoon

Traditional kiln firing in the afternoon

An unused kiln in the colony is used for storage as families are now slowly starting to use new environment friendly gas kilns (self developed).

An unused kiln in the colony is now used for storage as families are slowly adapting to use environment friendly gas kilns (self developed).

 

A self developed gas kiln

A self developed gas kiln

A special thank you to Mr. Abbas Galwani who guided me through Kumbharwada. The above is a brief summary from a recorded interview with him.

*All photographs are taken by and belong to the user: outofhersuitcase, please do not copy, reuse or edit these images without permission.

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