Potter’s Colony: Get down and dirty in Delhi
Kumhar Gram, or as it is popularly known – Potter’s Colony, is a village lost in time in the midst of urbanized Delhi. Home to over 700 potters who made their way to Delhi from Alwar in Rajasthan, the Potter’s Colony is a thriving village cut off from the rest of the world. It is the largest settlement of potters in the world, but it is virtually unknown, even by the locals.
The Potter’s village is located in West Delhi, but is quite difficult to find. It isn’t even marked on Google Maps. It is advisable to get the exact directions from locals or to take a guide along so you can find it easily. Once you get in, it is just as easy to get lost in the maze of houses and little lanes, so it is definitely worthwhile to enlist a guide.
All the houses in Potter’s Colony have a wide variety of pieces on display. Majority of their produce includes flower pots, piggy banks and water mugs/pitchers. These are made on the potter’s wheel. They also make, in smaller quantities, lamps, wall hangings. With Diwali just around the corner, you can pick your diyas to your heart’s content at the Potter’s Colony. These are usually made from moulds rather than on the wheel. The artists out of you can go home and paint these clay items with bright colours and liven them up. Several specialized potters make glazed pottery, some specialize in fastest pot making. One potter makes life size sculptures of famous celebrities. He even makes figurines of various Gods, and even these are quite striking.
You will find that these items have shockingly low prices. Most visitors cannot hold themselves back and buy several pieces to take home or to gift. Majority of their creations are packed away into trucks and delivered to wholesalers. They are then decorated and sold at other places in Delhi like Dilli Haat or other permanent bazaars at exorbitantly high prices. Unfortunately, the potter’s only earn a tiny margin of the profits. Their interaction with the wholesalers is their only contact with the outside world and they probably don’t realise how much they are being exploited.
The villagers of Rajasthan are a proud lot. Pottery for them is not only their livelihood, it is a way of life. It is a status symbol. Even through their pride, the villagers are very friendly. If you manage to hold a conversation with them, they might invite you in for some tea. Any tea drinker will know that tea gets a magnificent taste when drunk out of an earthen pot. As you walk along, you will even come across some villagers having a hookah. This hookah won’t be made out of glass, like the ones we are used to seeing, but instead is made out of clay too! Although using the pottery wheel is traditionally the man’s job, a guide can set you up to try your hand at it. Be warned, it is not as easy as the potters make it look! The men say that women do need not work to earn a living, but surprisingly the women perform the more strenuous task of making the clay. You can ask them to teach you how to make the clay too.
You can see traditional Alwar architecture ingrained into the village. All the homes are still made out mud. There are entire walls made of broken pots. The holes in the pots unwittingly serve as ventilation for the homes.
Visiting the Potter’s Colony is a good break from city life just outside the city. It is very fascinating to observe the socio cultural aspects of this settlement, try your hand at pottery and shop for tons of goodies to take home.