Vishnu Kumbhar from Senapati Kapashi village of Kolhapur district belongs to the 13th generation of Kumbhar family and makes sure that the art form is kept alive in modern times.
May 8, 2017 | Sanket Jain
Senapati Kapashi is known for its Pottery and Kolhapuri Chappal industry. The potters from Kapashi are locally addressed as Kumbhars.
The village has a tradition of passing the pottery art from one generation to another. Vishnu Ketru Kumbhar, 70 year old potter, belongs to the 13th generation of the Kumbhar family whose art work started back in 1857.
Vishnu, who works 16 hours daily, starts his work at four in the morning. On an average, he makes 25 pots daily of 20 litres each.
It takes 2-5 days for making a pot. The clay used for it comes from Belgaum and some of the varieties used include tambdi mati, bhing mati.
This oven (Bhatti) is used twice a week where 300 pots, each of 15 litres are baked together. It takes almost 5 hours to bake these pots.
Horse manure is mixed with clay so that the utensils develop a better tensile strength.
He has passed these skills to next generations. Vishnu’s son, Prakash works in the nearby factory and also helps continue this tradition by assisting the family.
Entire Kumbhar family is involved in the pottery art.
Kumbhars say that they haven’t witnessed a decline in their business, but the number of artists has reduced considerably. Vishnu recalls, “There were 180 artists in 1964, but now only 4 of them are into this business.”
The pottery art work continues throughout the year, but kumbhars are also good sculptors. Three months before Ganesh festival, they start sculpting statues as there is a huge demand for the same.
Several varieties of pots are made by Kumbhars and most of them are sold in the nearby cities of Kolhapur, Sangli and Ichalkaranji.
Potter’s wheel is slowly being replaced with machines as several potters have grown old and suffer from back problems.
Talking about the history, Vishnu said that earlier no Kumbhars existed in Senapati Kapashi. In 1751, one of the descendants of Santaji Ghorpade, brought three Kumbhars from Shikhar Shingnapur village and allocated 24 acres of land to them. It was back then, when the history of pottery actually started here.
The Kumbhar family has successfully managed to pass on the tradition to its 15th generation. However, the artists complain that they aren’t acknowledged by the state and are merely reduced to the tag of Kumbhar.
Photos: Sanket Jain