Peringottukurissi - Palakkad’s own potters’ village
While travelling we see the age-old clay pots and other utensils on the street-side shops. If we go there and ask the price, that will cost us a fortune. But where do these pots come from? These come from the houses of people who work day and night to make pots, jugs, pans and every other household item possible. We never think of these clay utensils taking shape in the hand of a skilled potter or the effort of a family in making each one of them. All these thoughts struck me hard when I stopped my car for a while to talk to these people while I was travelling through Peringottukurissi in Palakkad.
According to them, the art of making pots require two layers of mud from the fields; the first layer of mud to make the kiln and the second layer to make utensils. This invites protests from other natives of the village as the ground water level goes down due to the continuous removal of soil and the field lay laden.
The people there were engaged in different stages of production of these items and one piece takes almost a week to come to the perfect shape to go to the market. It is true that the traditional machine has given its way to the modern machine that works on electricity, but the process has no change. First, they beat the mud to a smooth paste and then feed this into the machine. The skilled hands of the potter shape it into something which is of great demand in the market. Once this is completed the item is left to dry in the sun for almost 2-3 days. After this, it is put in the kiln and burns it with tamarind wood (which produces high temperature once burned) and it is baked in the kiln for four days. Once taken out, the item is ready to travel to a market from where it will reach a house as their household item. Adapting to the modern day demand these potters now make kitchen utensils like non-stick pans and tawas of clay which is of higher demand than other traditional kitchen wares.
Even though the product has a pan- Kerala market the buyers go to the village directly to buy these items so that they have to pay only a minimal amount when compared to those in the markets. A clay pan which is available in the village for 150 rupees is not available in the market for an amount lesser than that (subjected to our bargaining skill). Also, these potters get bulk orders which are taken out of the village in bulks and the profits of this hardly reach the skilled hands.
Once a place where whole families were engaged in making utensils of clay, Peringottukurissi village, now have only a maximum of 25 families practising this profession. And in that only 2 youngsters took up this as their profession; all others diverted to other professions and this art is now facing death threat due to unawareness of the people who once practices this. They don’t really know how good the markets are or how high the demands are for their products. This unawareness led them to a situation where the families have to divert themselves to take up other jobs to make the two ends meet. And everyone conveniently forgets the fact that this is an art.
Another problem faced by those who are still taking up pottery as their profession is that the families of girls are not ready to give their daughters in marriage to those youngsters who take up this traditional profession. They cite this as one of the main reasons to ditch the job inherited from their forefathers and look for something more ‘decent’.
All these factors together are leading an art, which is traditional in our villages, to death. If the situation continues for another 3 or 4 years, we can’t predict the number of people practising this profession. It can even be zero as the art is not profitable to those talented people who mould the clay into beautiful kitchen wares.