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Terracotta Tradition

The Terracotta tradition is one of the earliest forms of art and craft discovered by mankind. The Terracotta tradition in Rajasthan has been around since the days of the Indus Valley Civilization. The Rajasthani terracotta art boasts of its unique character and style. The art is traditional to the village of Molela in the Rajsamand district, that have been witnesses to the beautiful craft since time immemorial.

The art is associated with making idols of local gods and goddesses like Dharamraj Ji and Dev Narayan Ji. Several temples in Southern Rajasthan and also in Madhya Pradesh replace the idols every year, and visit Molela for the beautiful terracotta figurines that are created here. The tradition is celebrated like a festival and is followed by almost all the tribes in the area. Usually the original terracotta designs have detailed mythological stories depicting Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The unique feature about the figurines is that, they are hollow giving rise to lightweight pieces of art. This technique prevents formation of cracks and also uses less amount of clay. The art of terracotta is appreciated throughout the world and every year thousands of pieces of this beautiful art work are exported to foreign countries.


The Terracotta tradition is as old as 1500 or 1700 years old. In the olden times, almost every village had potters that specialized in this art. The craft was originally introduced through Persia after Chengiz Khan occupied China in AD 1212.

The art of terracotta has evolved over the years, but has still maintained its popularity and importance. In villages, and even where traditional cooking is involved, terracotta pots are still used for making delicious food. For ages, terracotta has been used for making decorative pieces and idols of gods and goddess. Even till the present day, the income of the potters in the village of Molela depends on the terracotta tradition.


The Terracotta items are made by the Maru Kumhars (potters) in Molela. The village is located close to Udaipur city. The plaques are the most famous terracotta items. These plaques depict ceremonial images, mainly created for the tribal customers. These plaques are famous for being light in weight, hollow and skilfully modelled by hand.

The potters make use of local fine-grained clay consisting of alumina, silica, and other alkaline-based  materials like lime, then mix this with sand, and knead it to form dough-like consistency. This helps the clay become flexible. For making figurines, a slab is crafted in the traditional dome-shaped top and the edges are raised a little higher to form a rim. The figures are crafted in the centre of the slab and should be hollow, so that they do not crack or burst in the furnace. Once the figures are ready, they are decorated with jewellery made from small beads of clay. These terracotta figurines are made by using basic techniques like pinching, rolling, pressing and squeezing of clay. After the plaques are ready, they are dried for nine days and fired in a make-shift furnace.

After the figurine is complete, it can be painted with mineral or stone colours. The final finishing is given with a coating of locally made lacquer. The kumhars of Molela state that the figurines made from red clay of Molela are special, as the ones made by other varieties of clay might break easily.

During the month of Maag between January and February, people from different tribal communities along with their priests arrive in Molela to buy new figurines of their deities. These deities include Ganesha, Chamunda, Durga, Kali, or of local folk heroes like Dev Narayan, Gora Bhairav, Tejaji, Vasuki, Sadumata, Kala Bhairav, etc.

Apart from figurines, Terracotta art is also used for manufacturing kitchen utensils and decorative pots. For making pots and other articles, a lump of clay is kept on a wheel and turned with force till it gathers momentum. The wheel keeps rotating, while the potter works on the clay to give it the desired shape. The item is then sun-dried for several days and then fried in the furnace to give it strength. In villages, terracotta pots are used for cooking and also for storing water. Terracotta clay pots keep the stored water cool, as the slow evaporation of water from the porous clay helps in removing the surrounding heat and keeping the temperatures cool. The potters make beautiful terracotta pots with fine artwork on them.

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