TODAY -

Thongjao potters adapting to modern requirements

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Roadside stall selling pots and other models at Thongjao
Roadside stall selling pots and other models at Thongjao



In the race to preserve the rapidly diminishing ancient art of making earthern wares of Manipur, several traditional potters of this Indian border state, are turning to developing new innovative designs and models, to increase the chances of selling it to potential buyers aside from regular consumers.

Fortunately, as plain-looking pots occupies a crucial part in Manipuri culture in religious and marriage ceremonies, the demand for the same continues to live on. The pottery-based meagre industry has survived for centuries and does a mild business in Imphal. But for the potters who have endured much hardship to preserve this art, life is hard and many have discarded their traditional profession in order to seek better income. This is more so at the pottery making centres of Chairel and Nongpok Sekmai.

Although the ancient village of Andro is famous for pottery making and has become a tourist destination due to efforts of the Tourism Department, other traditional pottery making sites face an obsolete future.

Determined Thongjao potters adapting to changing scenario

The village of Thongjao, located some 66 km from the state capital is one such place which is a living witness to the gradual diminishing of pottery making in the state. Interestingly, the small village is gradually adapting to the changing requirements by adopting new ideas. Potters at this village in Kakching district, have introduced colouring with different textures, decorating designs and replicas of different animals, to incite potential buyers.

During the days when modern utensils had not forayed in the daily life of all, colours of earthern wares hardly matter, and most of the pottery products were either plain mud-coloured or dark brown. However that has changed and the financially hard-pressed potters are resorting to artificial colours particularly gold, white, black to make the finished pots and models more attractive.

A mud-coloured pot with floral designs
A mud-coloured pot with floral designs



Although in the distant past, potters made earthern wares meant for storing water, cooking and ceremonial purposes, today's potters are creating items aside from the traditional pots, particularly models of turtles, Penguins, candle stands and others.

In terms of smoothness of the finished pottery works, products of Thongjao clearly maintain an edge over that of their counterparts at Nongpok Sekmai and nearby Chairel. Samjetsabam Subhadhini says better smoothness of Thongjao pots has sealed its place for preference in marriage ceremonies.

The 58-year-old said her family has been involved in making potteries since time immemorial. However, with age taking toll on her eyes and health, she is finding it hard to continue it.

Accordingly, she has to hire other potters, and make earthern wares under her supervision which to her is more expensive for she has to pay their wages. But, the price for paying her hired potters is just the tip of the ice berg for the real expenses comes in obtaining the raw materials (soils) required to make the pots and other models as well as for transporting it to Mother's market in major market centres in Imphal, Pallel and Singjamei.

Brief narrative on process of making pots

Built with the unique mud, Leitan Leimu, Subhadini says in the older days, men would physically dug large portion of pit, almost more than the 10 feet below the surface of the earth. However, today, back hoe loaders (JCB machines) are used to retrieve this black mud thereby making the whole process much costlier. Even then, the potters have to hire these large machines to retrieve the soils into the manufacturing workshop which increases the costs.

The mud-coloured soil Leimu is then proportionately mixed with a whitish clay known as Leikok and highly winnowed sand locally known as Nungjreng.

The kneaded clay mixture is then rolled into a coil and flattened by beating with the rectangular shaped beater "Phunjei" and an anvil. The anvil (stone) is kept on the inside while the beating is done from the outside. After reaching a rough model, the potter uses his skill to pound and flatten the pots into the shape of his desire.

Continuous movement in anti-clockwise manner by hand and constant stroking forms an essential part of the whole process to achieve a synchronised shape on all sides. In fact, many a times, the potter rotates the rough damp model more than 300 times to get smoother and well proportioned shapes.

Polishing is carried out prior to the process of burning of the pots and other models.

Floral and other geometrical designs are also dabbed on the damped models with incised wooden beaters known as Asphujae and pointed metals.

Later, the dried pots and other pounded items are exposed to sunlight for few days.

The pots and other similar work of art are then placed on fire kilns made of bamboos above which rice husk are carefully layered. The pots and other models are then covered with bundles of straws and exposed to fire for atleast three or four days, during which it is made sure that the fire and the smoke reaches all the portions of the models and the resulting smoke does not escape.

Durability of the potteries decreases unless the models are deeply burned. The colouring process is the last stage of the whole pottery making process before it is brought out for sale.

Collection of plain pots meant for transporting to major market places
Collection of plain pots meant for transporting to major market places



Hardship of the traditional potters

Subhadhini continued that soils are procured from the nearby fields for which they have to pay the land owners starting from Rs 3000 to Rs 40, 000 and more, based on the requirement, capacity to pay and availability.

The woman compared transportation of potteries from her native village to the market places to that of transporting eggs. Being very fragile, the pots are to be carefully stuffed and packed by arranging of jute sacks and bundle of straws to make it tightly compact.

She said those who owns mini trucks does not generally concerns themselves with transportation charges but for her and those who don't, it is very expensive. She said much part of the profit that could be extracted also goes into the whole transportation charges.

While Andro village is today gradually thriving with commercial activities, Thongjao and other traditional pottery centres at Nongpok Sekmai, Chairel, Oinam and the picturesque Nungbi villages continue to remain unnoticed by the authorities.


* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer works as a correspondent for the Assam-based newspaper Asomiya Pratidin and is also a journalist at PTI Imphal and can be contacted at phanjching(AT)gmail(DOT)com . This article was posted on May 09, 2017.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.


LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Sangai Fest: Maibi Jagoi : Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows : Gallery
  • Nupi Lan : Women Agitation, 1939-40 #1
  • Promoting Human Rights: A Perspective
  • Khongji :: Poem
  • Surveying tigers: A big challenge in Manipur
  • Terrorism & Technology - II
  • Silencing significance of Human Right Day
  • Trun up to Parliamentary polls: Issues
  • Deteriorating Tumukhong Village road
  • Sangai Fest: Chareng Len : Gallery
  • International Mountain Day, 2018
  • Loudness not ok please
  • A wounded Pine Tree :: Poem
  • Natural remedies for hair growth
  • BEHS office inaugurated at Motbung
  • Tattooed With Taboos :: Review
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Stone Forest @Yunnan, China : Gallery
  • Eerie, Eerier, Eeriest :: Review
  • Sangai Fest: Muay Thai : Gallery
  • ..that made me fall in love with Naga
  • Research Support Officer wanted
  • Condemns arrest of Journalist Wangkhem
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Programs at Public Health Foundation
  • Fixing the broken window
  • Head count of dogs !!
  • Pari Imom (Film) #2 :: eRang
  • Matheous Thingbaijam Cycling NE: Gallery
  • Chumthang Nganbi, Ulen :: eMing
  • Chengni Khujai: Insurgency Chronicle #1
  • Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2019
  • Tests for allergies
  • Cycling across NE: Matheous Thingbaijam
  • Site Officer/ Manager @R-Square Design
  • Armed Forces Flag Day celebrated
  • A lasting legacy
  • 'Stray dogs' as predators
  • Sangai Day 3: Pung Chollom #2: Gallery
  • Thai Princess @Imphal Airport: Gallery
  • Fashion Show @Sangai Fest #1: Gallery
  • Mysterious Animal Attack of Manipur
  • Khelen Thokchom Media Fellowships
  • Career option in Purchase Management
  • Terrorism & Technology - I
  • Intimidation to media person
  • Ban on hunting migratory birds
  • Manipuri Diaspora in Myanmar #3
  • Sangai Day 3: Pena: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 1: Inauguration #3 : Gallery
  • I am a beautiful HIV Virus :: Poem
  • Teacher & Student: Stop eroding education
  • Diaspora unites at Thadou Nampi, USA
  • Deciding Mary's title :: WJ
  • A good man perspective
  • Now people need to extend co-operation
  • Day 3: Kabi Burnan : Gallery
  • Art meets Fashion : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 5: @ BOAT #3: Gallery
  • NAF announces Annual Scholarship
  • Preventing methods to save livestock
  • How Do You Do ? :: Poem
  • Competitiveness of Manipur
  • Shattered dream - "The Smart city"
  • Arrest, release & re-arrest of young man
  • Ningol Chakouba @ MBC #3 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Thang Ta #3: Gallery
  • Stalls at Hapta Kangjeibung #1: Gallery
  • How do you see 'disability' today ?
  • I don't exist without polo: Rafael Secco
  • The Road :: Poem
  • Students needed for cultural revolution?
  • Hard stand, hard decision
  • Cong rolling up sleeves ahead of LS polls
  • Day 8 : Arambai Langba : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #3: Gallery
  • The Midnight Hunter : Analysis
  • Art exhibition "Art meets Fashion"
  • The Haipi Lho-lhun Kut
  • Gaudiya Vaishnavism in Meitei Nation #3
  • Sangai Day 9: Thadou Dance: Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Cooking Final : Gallery
  • Han Kang's The White Book
  • Sangai Day 4: Yubi Lakpi : Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1 Cooking Final
  • Disaster Management Course at NEHU
  • Training on Online Fact Checking
  • Clarify : Impact of Act East Policy
  • On the series of Killing of Livestock..
  • Today is World AIDS Day
  • From entrails to body now
  • NESO : abolish Citizenship Bill
  • NEC building cultural centre at Delhi
  • 12th Manipur Polo Intl #1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 9: Kabui Dance : Gallery
  • Day 5: Stalls @Keibul Lamjao: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Holi Pala #1: Gallery
  • Importance of TESOL in Government School
  • Farewell to Lt Gen LN Singh, VSM**
  • Waphong Inthan - A failed village
  • On the arrest of Kishorchand
  • Blank Editorial
  • Predator or predators on the prowl
  • Thai Princess visit Kangla #1: Gallery
  • December Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Sangai Day 8: Mukna Kangjei #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #2: Gallery
  • Polo grows on you: Col Tarsem
  • Rediscovery of Gangmumei Kamei: Review
  • For whom does she cry ? :: Poem
  • DG Assam Rifles visits Manipur
  • Detention of TV journalist not fair
  • Arrest of 8 mountaineers from Manipur
  • Sangai Day 4: Lai Haraoba #1: Gallery
  • Bangladesh Manipuri Students : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Pung Chollom #1: Gallery
  • We have a balanced team: George Shelton
  • Cry of a Dying River - 56 :: Poem
  • Sangai with Sumo & Samba ?
  • Morphing : An innocent loses her life
  • Bangladesh Manipuri students at Sylhet
  • Thai princess visits Kangla Fort
  • Olympics gold my dream : Mary Kom
  • Exploring the beaten path
  • Opening up Manipur: Visa office assurance
  • Thai Princess Sirindhorn @Sangai : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2018 #5: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 6: Pherzawl Dance : Gallery
  • Manipuri Maichou 7 :: Book Review
  • Chandon :: Poem
  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Defers proposed indefinite highway bandh
  • 19th Hornbill Festival at Kisama
  • Sangai stops dancing
  • Mary Kom: Epitome of sporting excellence
  • Sangai Day 5: Evening Prog #1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 5: Thailand Dance : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Imphal Art Camp : Gallery
  • Edward Armstrong - USA Polo Team
  • An abrupt journey to an oasis of blue bull
  • Winter Blues :: Poem
  • Technical Internship Training for Japan
  • NPF on Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister
  • A ditch to Technology
  • Border row: India Myanmar, sacrificial lamb
  • Sangai Day 4: Pena Esei :Gallery
  • Day 5: Sangai Chef: Season 1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Festival 2018: Turning into a Mela?
  • Sumo Wrestling: popular event in Sangai
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1: Cooking : Day 5
  • Truths in rumours & humours
  • PANE Conference organized at AUDC
  • Sangai Day 2: Dance from Kamjong: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Thang Ta #1: Gallery
  • Can we have the Sangai festival daily?
  • Platonic love :: Poem
  • IGAR(s) congratulates Mary Kom
  • WPW Syndrome operated and cured
  • NSUD clarification on Nagas' Meet
  • National Highway bandh from Nov 27
  • Prospective candidates of Cong, BJP
  • Sangai Day 2: Sumo Wrestling #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Myanmar : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Geet Govinda: Gallery
  • 2017- a watershed year for Manipur Polo
  • Faculties (PG) at Gauhati University
  • Biodiversity for economic development #2
  • Mera Kongchat Mass Rally #4: Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1 : Day 1
  • GC Tongbra's 'Chengni Khujai'
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Thy name :: Poem
  • Bartending as a career option #2
  • Legal Awareness Programme
  • Tribute to Bhupen Hazarika at London
  • Blessing for Manipur
  • Cherry Blossom & Sangai: beyond Imphal
  • Sangai Fest: Inauguration #2 : Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Inauguration #1 : Gallery
  • Natural Resources Management in Manipur
  • Leishemba Takhellambam : Polo Player
  • Robert Naorem at Eco Friendly Australia
  • Cry of a Dying River - 55 :: Poem
  • Jobs at ICERT, MeitY
  • NHPC Raising Day at Loktak Power Station
  • Where have all the city buses gone ?
  • Back to politics: Man from Langthabal AC
  • Mera Wayungba #2 : Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba @Pune : Gallery
  • State Level Basketball : Gallery
  • Combating drug abuse in Manipur
  • Ningol Chakkouba celebrated at Pune
  • Glamour at 55th Naga's Meet 2018, Delhi
  • Myanmarese greeted at Khudengthabi
  • Rejoinder to PRO IGAR(s) statement
  • Quami Ekta Divas
  • Subsuming a smaller tribe
  • Kwatha Festival #2 : Gallery
  • ChingTam Ningol Chakouba @Goa: Gallery
  • Thoudam Kaoba :: Profile of Polo Player
  • The festival of the Inpui Nagas
  • Hazari/Tombi Polo Tournament : Gallery
  • Ashok Veilou (Purul) award in Kolkata fest
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Mysore #2 : Gallery
  • Scaramouche, Fandango, Galileo, Figaro..
  • Laija (Film Scenes) #1 :: eRang
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Dubai #2 : Gallery
  • Lamklai Kummoi Maring Fest #2: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba Nga Mela #2 : Gallery
  • Rajkumar Jhaljit : Sahityaratna 2017
  • Ningol Chakouba :: Poem
  • Kut festival @ Chandel : Gallery
  • Ningol - mapam lamdam : Gallery
  • Mera Houchongba @Konung #3: Gallery
  • Fabrics of Bangladeshi Manipuri: Download
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Mera Houchongba @Konung #1: Gallery
  • Eepan Thaba #1: Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download
  • mtM :: Seireng
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #4: Gallery
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS