Hidden away in West Delhi are 700 potters, mostly from Alwar in rural Rajasthan. Kumhar Gram or potters colony is a village surrounded by the urban sprawl of West Delhi. Two small villages, many made of mud themselves, are hidden away, even our driver who lives just a mile from here, did not know of its existence. I was thankful to the ever faithful google maps in finding it, following much personal research on news pieces and other blog posts for scant directions. Indeed not only was google maps needed to find the colony but also needed to navigate back out again, through open and blocked drains, which flooded the rubbish strewn roads. Well did I say roads? Now I know Delhi's roads aren't the most smooth, tarmac thoroughfares that most are used to, but here they can barely be described as roads. Very little tarmac or road construction is visible more compacted lanes of stones, soil and discarded anything. Indeed we saw massive potholes in the middle of a crossroads being 'repaired' with a sackful of someones rubbish, including bricks, food rubbish and plastic. I asked if this area was legal housing as many areas in Delhi have been built by refugees etc without permission, but Yes this is 'legal' The Powers that Be seriously need to look at the infrastructure of this part of the Capital city of India (I've no illusions that many other areas of Delhi are the same) RANT over.......back to the potters!
Amongst the sprawling labyrinth of lanes you will see mud houses where people live and work amongst the wood fired kilns, a scene reminiscent of rural India amongst the modernity of the nations Capital.
Along the lanes and up against the homes are piles of earth/clay which will be dug out, by women and children. It will be beaten by sticks, sieved and then water added and left to soak for 12 hours or so. Then in equally back breaking work it will be kneaded by hands and feet to remove air bubbles to form the blocks of clay that are workable for the men to form into their creations.
Further away from the piles of earth you then come to the kilns and workshops, the homes which outside are 'warehouses' of all that is made.
From tiny diyas, lamps, dishes and pots of varying sizes, water bowls, plates, wall hangings, masks... even scrubbing brushes....ouch!
Many statues of the gods from tiny to almost full human size. Here you will see the unadorned red clay produced and later decorated, some locally but others are bought and decorated off site. When decorated the Gods are painted in the most vibrant, gaudy and electrifying colours with sequins and sparkles galore! You will be able to see what celebration is coming up by what is decorated, painted diyas and lamps for Diwali and when we went it was soon to be Ganesha's birthday so hundred of Ganesha states watched us we walking the lanes!
The prices here are ludicrously cheap, of course we couldn't resist! tear drop diyas were purchased for just 2 rupees each, a painted mask to ward off evil spirits for 100 rupees and a substantial Ganesha for next to nothing. The prices were inflated slightly at the sight of us westerners! but we still gave that little extra. These craftsmen work all day, for little return. Their artisanal creations are bought and sold on at bazaars, such as Dilli Haat, at inflated prices with the middle men and salesmen benefiting from the hike in prices. Many restaurants buy for their businesses, from biryani pots and quirky serving dishes seen in the trendy eateries of Delhi.