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"CHAP. IV. —THE KUMAR [কুমার] OR POTTER.
The Sanskrit names for the potter are Kulal [कुलाल] and Kumbhakara [कुंभकार]. In Southern India the potters are called Kusaven [കുശവൻ]. The word Kumbhakar [कुंभकार] literally means a ‘maker of earthen jars.’ In practice, the Kumars [কুমার] make many other kinds of earthen vessels. As the poorer classes of India use only earthen vessels as their cooking pots andwaterpots, and as earthen pots are used even by the rich for cooking purposes, the Kumar [কুমার] is indispensable in every village of importance. The Kumar’s services are required also for making those clay images that in Bengal [বঙ্গ] are set up at stated times in the houses of the rich and in public places, and which, after being worshipped for a few days, are thrown into some river or tank with great pomp. Such being the functions of the Kumars [কুমার], the caste is found in every part of India, and their total numerical strength is, according to the last Census, 8,346,488. Some of the Kumars [কুমার], as for instance, those of Nadiya [নদিয়া] and Ghurni [ঘূর্ণি], possess very considerable skill in painting and making clay statues. In most parts of the country the Kumars [কুমার] are regarded as a clean caste. In Gujrat [ગુજરાત] they are regarded as exceptionally clean, but in the Central Provinces and Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] they are regarded as unclean. It is said that in some parts of N. -W. Provinces also they are regarded as an unclean caste.
The Kumars [কুমার] are an illiterate caste, and there are very few among them who can sign their own name. Their usual surname is Pal [पाल / পাল]."[Quelle: Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath: Hindu castes and sects : an exposition of the origin of the Hindu caste system and the bearing of the sects towards each other and towards other religious systems. -- Calcutta : Thacker, 1896. -- S. 240]
Kummara [కుమ్మర], Kumbāra [कुंभार / ಕುಂಬಾರ], Kumbāro [କୁମ୍ଭାରୋ].—
“The potters of the Madras Presidency,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Madras Census Report, 1891), “outside the Tamil [தமிழ்] country and Malabar, are called Kummara [కుమ్మర] in Telugu [తెలుగు], Kumbāro [କୁମ୍ଭାରୋ] in Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ], and Kumbāra [ಕುಂಬಾರ] in Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ], all these names being corrupted forms of the Sanskrit word Kumbhakāra, pot-maker (ku, earth). In social position they are considered to be a superior class of Sūdras. The Telugu [తెలుగు] Kummaras [కుమ్మర] were cooks under the ancient kings, and many of them still work in that capacity in Sūdra houses. The Kumbāros [କୁମ୍ଭାରୋ] are purely Vaishnavites [ବୈଷ୍ଣବ] and employ Boishnob priests, while the Kummaras [కుమ్మర] and Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] call in Brāhmans. Widow remarriage is allowed among the Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] section alone. All of them eat flesh.”
Concerning the potter classes, Mr. Stuart writes further (Manual of the North Arcot district.) that
“Kummaras [కుమ్మర] or Kusavans [குயவன்] (q.v.} are the potters of the country, and were probably at one time a single caste, but are now divided into Telugus [తెలుగు], Northern Tamilians [தமிழர்] and Southern Tamilians, who have similar customs, but will not intermarry or eat together. The northern and southern potters differ in that the former use a wheel of earthenware, and the latter one made of wood. The Telugu [తెలుగు] potters are usually followers of Vishnu [విష్ణువు] and the Tamilians [தமிழர்] of Siva [சிவன்], some being also Lingāyats [லிங்காயதம்], and therefore burying their dead. All the potters claim an impure Brāhmanical descent, telling the following story regarding their origin. A learned Brāhman, after long study, discovered the day and hour in which he might beget a mighty offspring. For this auspicious time he waited long, and at its approach started for the house of his selected bride, but floods detained him, and, when he should have been with her, he was stopping in a potter’s house. He was, however, resolved not to lose the opportunity, and by the daughter of his host he had a son, the celebrated Sālivāhana [शालिवाहन / சாலிவாகனன்]. This hero in his infancy developed a genius for pottery, and used to amuse himself by making earthen figures of mounted warriors, which he stored in large numbers in a particular place. After a time Vikramarka [विक्रमार्क] invaded Southern India, and ordered the people to supply him with pots for his army. They applied to Sālivāhana [शालिवाहन / சாலிவாகனன்], who miraculously infused life into his clay figures, and led them to battle against the enemy, whom he defeated, and the country (Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]) fell into his hands. Eventually he was left as its ruler, and became the ancestor of the early Mysore Rajas. Such is the story current among the potters, who generally believe that they are his progeny. They all live in a state of poverty and ignorance, and are considered of a low rank among other Sūdras.”
At the village of Karigeri in the North Arcot [வடாற்காடு] district, there is carried on by some of the local potters an interesting industry in the manufacture of ornamental pottery, for which a medal was awarded at the Delhi Darbar Exhibition.
“The soft pottery,” Surgeon-General G. Bidie writes, “receives a pretty green glaze, and is made into vases and other receptacles, some of which are imitations of Delft ware and other European manufactures of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ; patterns having been introduced by Collectors. Some of the water-bottles are double, the outer shell being pierced so , as to allow air to circulate around the inner.”
The history of this little industry is, I gather, as follows (Madras Mail, 1903).
“Mr. Robinson, a Collector in the sixties of the last century, started the manufacture of tea-pots, milk jugs, and sugar bowls with a dark green glaze, but his dream of supplying all India with chota hazri [छोटा हाज़िरी] (early tea) sets was not realised. Then came Mr. Whiteside, and the small Grecian vases and the like are due to his and Mrs. Barlow’s influence. He had accurate wooden models made by his well-known wood-carvers. He further altered the by no means pretty green glaze, and reddish browns and yellows were produced. Then came Mr. Stuart, who pushed the sale at exhibitions and railway stations. He also gave the potters models of fancy flower-pots for in-door use. The pottery is exceedingly fragile, and unsuitable for rough usage. Unglazed water and butter coolers were the earliest and best articles the potters produced.”
Concerning the Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] of South Canara, Mr. Stuart writes (Manual of the South Canara district.), that they
“seem to be a branch of the Telugu [తెలుగు] and Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] potter castes, but many of them have Tulu [ತುಳು] for their home speech, and follow the aliya-santāna rule of inheritance (in the female line). Some of them officiate as pūjāris [ಪೂಜಾರಿ] (priests) in the temples of the local deities or demons, and are employed to perform funeral rites. Unlike the Tamil [தமிழ்] potters, the Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] do not wear the sacred thread. Infant and widow marriages are very common. On the birth of a child, the family observe pollution for fifteen days, and on the sixteenth day the village barber and dhōbi [ಧೋಬಿ] (washerman) get holy water from the village temple, and purify the family by sprinkling it on their head. There are two endogamous sub-divisions, the Kannada [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Tulu [ತುಳು] Kumbāra [ಕುಂಬಾರ], and each of these is divided into exogamous balis. Their ordinary title is Handa, which is also sometimes used as the name of the caste. In Uppinangadi a superior kind of pottery is made (by the Kannada [ಕನ್ನಡ] Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ]). It is made of clay powdered, mixed with water, and strained. It is then poured into a pit specially prepared for the purpose, where it is allowed to remain for about a month, by which time it becomes quite dry. It is then removed, powdered, moistened, and made into balls, which are one by one placed upon a wheel and fashioned into various kinds of vessels, including vases, goglets, teapots, cups and saucers. The vessels are dried in the shade for about eight days, after which they are baked for two days, when they are ready for sale. They have a glazed appearance, and are sometimes beautifully ornamented.”
In the Census Report, 1901, Vōdāri, Bandi, and Mūlya are returned as sub-castes of the Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ]potters.
The Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] of the Mysore Province are, Mr. T. Ananda Row informs us (Mysore Census Report, 1901.),
“potters and tile-makers. There are two great divisions among them mutually exclusive, the Kannada [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Telugu [తెలుగు], the former claiming superiority over the latter. The Telugu [తెలుగు] Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] trace their descent to Sālivāhana [शालिवाहन / சாலிவாகனன்], and wear the sacred thread. They abstain from eating meat. There are both Saivites [ಶೈವ] and Vaishnavites [ವೈಷ್ಣವ] among Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ]. The former acknowledge the Smartha [ಸ್ಮಾರ್ತ] Brāhman’s sway. Polygamy is permitted, and divorce can only be for adultery. Widows are not permitted to remarry. This caste also includes dyers known as Nīlagara (nīl [ನೀಲಿ], indigo). It is curious that these two trades, quite distinct from one another, are followed by persons of the same family according to inclination. The Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ] worship all the Hindu deities, but pay special reverence to their kiln. They are recognised members of the village hierarchy.”
Of the Mysore Kumbāras [ಕುಂಬಾರ], Mr. L. Rice writes (Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer.) that the
“pot-makers were not stationed in every village, one or two being generally sufficient for a hobli or taraf. He furnished pots for all the ryats (agriculturists) of his taraf, and was entitled to ayam in an equal proportion as the other Ayagar (hereditary village officers). For liberty of exposing his wares for sale to travellers in the markets, he paid chakra-kanke to the Sirkar [ಸರ್ಕಾರ] (Government).”
At Channapatna [ಚನ್ನಪಟ್ಟಣ], in Mysore, I purchased for three annas a large collection of articles of pottery made out of black and brown clay. They are said to be made at a village near Channapatna, and consist of rudely ornamented miniature lamps of various patterns, models of native kitchen-ranges, pots, tobacco-pipes, dishes, etc. At the Mysore census, 1891, some potters described themselves as Gundu (round) Brāhmans.
The Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] Kumbāro [କୁମ୍ଭାରୋ] (kumbho, a pot) are said to practice both infant and adult marriage, and to permit the remarriage of widows. A sub-caste, named Bhande, derives its name from the Sanskrit bhanda, a pot. The Madras Museum possesses a quaint series of painted clay figures, made by a potter at Venkatarayapalle in Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ], which are set up in shrines on the seashore, and worshipped by fishermen. They include the following :—
- Bengāli Bābu.—Wears a hat, and rides on a black horse. He blesses the fishermen, secures large hauls of fish for them, and guards them against danger when out fishing.
- Rājamma.—A female figure, with a sword in her right hand, riding on a black elephant. She blesses barren women with children, and favours her devotees with big catches when they go out fishing.
- Veyyi Kannalu Ammavaru, or the goddess of a thousand eyes, represented by a pot pierced with many holes, in which a gingelly (Sesamum) oil light is burnt. She attends to the general welfare of the fishing folk.
Further details relating to the South Indian potters will be found under the heading Kusavan [குயவன்]."
[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 112 - 117]
Kumhār [कुम्हार], Kumbhār [कुंभार].—The easte of potters, the name being derived from the Sanskrit kumbh [कुम्भ], a water-pot. The Kumhārs [कुम्हार] numbered nearly 120,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911 and were most numerous in the northern and eastern or Hindustāni [हिंदुस्तानी / ہندوستانی]-speaking Districts, where earthen vessels have a greater vogue than in the south.
1. Traditions of origin.
The caste is of course an ancient one, vessels of earthenware having probably been in use at a very early period, and the old Hindu scriptures consequently give various accounts of its origin from mixed marriages between the four classical castes.
“Concerning the traditional parentage of the caste,” Sir H. Risley writes,1 “ there seems to be a wide difference of opinion among the recognised authorities on the subject. Thus the Brahma Vaivartta Purāna [ब्रह्मवैवर्त पुराण] says that the Kumbhakār [कुम्भकार] or maker of water-jars (kumbha [कुम्भ]), is born of a Vaishya [वैश्य] woman by a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] father ; the Parāsara Samhita [पराशर संहिता] makes the father a Mālākār [मालाकार] (gardener) and the mother a Chamār [चमार] ; while the Parāsara Padhati [पराशर पद्धति] holds that the ancestor of the caste was begotten of a Tili woman by a Pattikār [पत्तिकार] or weaver of silk cloth. Sir Monier Williams again, in his Sanskrit Dictionary, describes them as the offspring of a Kshatriya [क्षत्रिय] woman by a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण]. No importance can of course be attached to such statements as the above from the point of view of actual fact, but they are interesting as showing the view taken of the formation of castes by the old Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] writers, and also the position given to the Kumhār [कुम्हार] at the time when they wrote. This varies from a moderately respectable to a very humble one according to the different accounts of his lineage. The caste themselves have a legend of the usual Brāhmanical type :
“In the Kritayuga [कृतयुग], when Maheshwar [महेश्वर] (Siva [शिव]) intended to marry the daughter of Hemvanta [हेमवन्त], the Devas [देव] and Asuras [असुर] (Gods and demons) assembled at Kailās [कैलाश] (Heaven). Then a question arose as to who should furnish the vessels required for the ceremony, and one Kulālaka, a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], was ordered to make them. Then Kulālaka stood before the assembly with folded hands, and prayed that materials might be given to him for making the pots. So Vishnu [विष्णु] gave his Sudarsana [सुदर्शन] (discus) to be used as a wheel, and the mountain of Mandāra [मंदार] was fixed as a pivot beneath it to hold it up. The scraper was Adi Kūrma [आदिकूर्म] the tortoise, and a rain-cloud was used for the water-tub. So Kulālaka made the pots and gave them to Maheshwar [महेश्वर] for his marriage, and ever since his descendants have been known as Kumbhakār [कुम्भकार] or maker of water-jars.”
1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal [বঙ্গ], art. Kumhār.2. Caste subdivisions.
The Kumhārs [कुम्हार] have a number of subcastes, many of which, as might be expected, are of the territorial type and indicate the different localities from which they migrated to the Central Provinces. Such are the Mālwi [माळवी] from Mālwa [माळवा], the Telenga from the Telugu [తెలుగు] country in Hyderābād [حیدر آباد], the Pardeshi [परदेशी] from northern India and the Marātha [मराठा] from the Marātha [मराठा] Districts. Other divisions are the Lingāyats [लिंगायत] who belong to the sect of this name, the Gadhewāl or Gadhere who make tiles and carry them about on donkeys (gadha [गधा]), the Bardia who use bullocks for transport and the Sungaria who keep pigs (suar [सूअर]). Certain endogamous groups have arisen simply from differences in the method of working. Thus the Hāthgarhia2 mould vessels with their hands only without using the wheel ; the Goria3 make white or red pots only and not black ones ; the Kurere mould their vessels on a stone slab revolving on a stick and not on a wheel ; while the Chakere are Kumhārs [कुम्हार] who use the wheel (chāk [चाक]) in localities where other Kumhārs [कुम्हार] do not use it. The Chhutakia and Rakhotia are illegitimate sections, being the offspring of kept women.
2 Hāth [हाथ], hand and garhna, to make or mould.
3 Gora [गोरा], white or red, applied to Europeans.
Abb.: Potter and his wheel
3. Social customs
Girls are married at an early age when their parents can afford it, the matches being usually arranged at caste feasts. In Chanda [चंद्रपूर] parents who allow a daughter to become adolescent while still unwed are put out of caste, but elsewhere the rule is by no means so strict. The ceremony is of the normal type and a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] usually officiates, but in Betūl [बैतूल] it is performed by the Sawāsa or husband of the bride’s paternal aunt. After the wedding the couple are given kneaded flour to hold in their hands and snatch from each other as an emblem of their trade. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] a bride-price of Rs. 50 is paid.
The Kumhārs [कुम्हार] recognise divorce and the remarriage of widows. If an unmarried girl is detected in criminal intimacy with a member of the caste, she has to give a feast to the caste-fellows and pay a fine of Rs. 1-4 and five locks of her hair are also cut off by way of purification. The caste usually burn the dead, but the Lingāyat [लिंगायत] Kumhārs [कुम्हार] always bury them in accordance with the practice of their sect. They worship the ordinary Hindu deities and make an offering to the implements of their trade on the festival of Deothān [देवोत्थान] Igaras. The village Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] serves as their priest. In Bālāghāt [बालाघाट] a Kumhār [कुम्हार] is put out of caste if a dead cat is found in his house. At the census of 1901 the Kumhār [कुम्हार] was ranked with the impure castes, but his status is not really so low. Sir D. Ibbetson said of him :
“He is a true village menial ; his social standing is very low, far below that of the Lohār [लोहार] and not much above the Chamār [चमार]. His association with that impure beast, the donkey, the animal sacred to Sitala [शीतला], the smallpox goddess, pollutes him and also his readiness to carry manure and sweepings.”
As already seen there are in the Central Provinces Sungaria and Gadheria subcastes which keep donkeys and pigs, and these are regarded as impure. But in most Districts the Kumhār [कुम्हार] ranks not much below the Barhai [बढ़ई] and Lohār [लोहार], that is in what I have designated the grade of village menials above the impure and below the cultivating castes. In Bengal [বঙ্গ] the Kumhārs [কুমোর] have a much higher status and Brāhmans [ব্রাহ্মণ] will take water from their hands. But the gradation of caste in Bengal [বঙ্গ] differs very greatly from that of other parts of India.
4. The Kumhār as a village menial
The Kumhār [कुम्हार] is not now paid regularly by dues from the cultivators like other village menials, as the ordinary menial system of sale has no doubt been found more convenient in his case. But he sometimes takes the soiled grass from the stalls of the cattle and gives pots free to the cultivator in exchange. On Akti day, at the beginning of the agricultural year, the village Kumhār [कुम्हार] of Saugor [सागर] presents five pots with covers on them to each cultivator and receives 2½ lbs. of grain in exchange. One of these the tenant fills with water and presents to a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] and the rest he reserves for his own purposes. On the occasion of a wedding also the bridegroom’s party take the bride to the Kumharin’s house as part of the sohāg ceremony for making the marriage propitious. The Kumhār [कुम्हार] seats the bride on his wheel and turns it round with her seven times. The Kumharin presents her with seven new pots, which are taken back to the house and used at the wedding. They are filled with water and are supposed to represent the seven seas. If any two of these pots accidentally clash together it is supposed that the bride and bridegroom will quarrel during their married life. In return for this the Kumharin receives a present of clothes. At a funeral also the Kumhār [कुम्हार] must supply thirteen vessels which are known as ghāts, and must also replace the broken earthenware. Like the other village menials at the harvest he takes a new vessel to the cultivator in his field and receives a present of grain. These customs appear to indicate his old position as one of the menials or general servants of the village ranking below the cultivators. Grant-Duff also includes the potter in his list of village menials in the Marātha [मराठा] villages.1
1 History of the Marāthas, edition 18788, vol. i, p. 26.
The potter is not particular as to the clay he uses and does not go far afield for the finer qualities, but digs it from the nearest place in the neighbourhood where he can get it free of cost. Red and black clay are employed, the former being obtained near the base of hills or on high-lying land, probably of the laterite formation, and the latter in the beds of tanks or streams. When the clay is thoroughly kneaded and ready for use a lump of it is placed on the centre of the wheel. The potter seats himself in front of the wheel and fixes his stick or ckakrait into the slanting hole in its upper surface. With this stick the wheel is made to revolve very rapidly, and sufficient impetus is given to it to keep it in motion for several minutes. The potter then lays aside the stick and with his hands moulds the lump of clay into the shape required, stopping every now and then to give the wheel a fresh spin as it loses its momentum. When satisfied with the shape of his vessel he separates it from the lump with a piece of string, and places it on a bed of ashes to prevent it sticking to the ground. The wheel is either a circular disc cut out of a single piece of stone about a yard in diameter, or an ordinary wooden wheel with spokes forming two diameters at right angles. The rim is then thickened with the addition of a coating of mud strengthened with fibre.1
1 The above description is taken from the Central Provinces Monograph on Pottery and Glassware by Mr. Jowers, p. 4.
The articles made by the potter are ordinary circular vessels or gharas used for storing and collecting water, larger ones for keeping grain, flour and vegetables, and surāhis or amphoras for drinking-water. In the manufacture of these last salt and saltpetre are mixed with the clay to make them more porous and so increase their cooling capacity. A very useful thing is the small saucer which serves as a lamp, being filled with oil on which a lighted wick is floated. These saucers resemble those found in the excavations of Roman remains. Earthen vessels are more commonly used, both for cooking and eating purposes among the people of northern India, and especially by Muhammadans, than among the Marāthas [मराठा], and, as already noticed, the Kumhār [कुम्हार] caste musters strong in the north of the Province. An earthen vessel is polluted if any one of another caste takes food or drink from it and is at once discarded. On the occasion of a death all the vessels in the house are thrown away and a new set obtained, and the same measure is adopted at the Holi [होली] festival and on the occasion of an eclipse, and at various other ceremonial purifications, such as that entailed if a member of the household has had maggots in a wound. On this account cheapness is an indispensable quality in pottery, and there is no opening for the Kumhār [कुम्हार] to improve his art.
Another product of the Kumhār [कुम्हार]’s industry is the chilam [चिलम] or pipe-bowl. This has the usual opening for inhaling the smoke but no stem, an impromptu stem being made by the hands and the smoke inhaled through it. As the chilam [चिलम] is not touched by the mouth, Hindus of all except the impure castes can smoke it together, passing it round, and Hindus can also smoke it with Muhammadans.
It is a local belief that, if an earthen pot is filled with salt and plastered over, the rains will stop until it is opened. This device is adopted when the fall is excessive, but, on the other hand, if there is drought, the people sometimes think that the potter has used it to keep off the rain, because he cannot pursue his calling when the clay is very wet. And on occasions of a long break in the rains, they have been known to attack his shop and break all his vessels under the influence of this belief. The potter is sometimes known as Prajāpati [प्रजापति] or the 'The Creator,’ in accordance with the favourite comparison made by ancient writers of the moulding of his pots with the creation of human beings, the justice of which will be recognised by any one who watches the masses of mud on a whirling wheel growing into shapely vessels in the potter’s creating hands.6. Breeding pigs for sacrifices.
Certain Kumhārs [कुम्हार] as well as the Dhīmars make the breeding of pigs a means of subsistence, and they sell these pigs for sacrifices at prices varying from eight annas (8d.) to a rupee. The pigs are sacrificed by the Gonds to their god Bura Deo and by Hindus to the deity Bhainsāsur [भैंसासुर], or the buffalo demon, for the protection of the crops. Bhainsāsur [भैंसासुर] is represented by a stone in the fields, and when crops are beaten down at night by the wind it is supposed that Bhainsāsur [भैंसासुर] has passed over them and trampled them down. Hindus, usually of the lower castes, offer pigs to Bhainsāsur [भैंसासुर] to propitiate him and preserve their crops from his ravages, but they cannot touch the impure pig themselves. What they have to do, therefore, is to pay the Kumhār [कुम्हार] the price of the pig and get him to offer it to Bhainsāsur [भैंसासुर] on their behalf. The Kumhār [कुम्हार] goes to the god and sacrifices the pig and then takes the body home and eats it, so that his trade is a profitable one, while conversely to sacrifice a pig without partaking of its flesh must necessarily be bitter to the frugal Hindu mind, and this indicates the importance of the deity who is to be propitiated by the offering. The first question which arises in connection with this curious custom is why pigs should be sacrificed for the preservation of the crops ; and the reason appears to be that the wild pig is the animal which, at present, mainly damages the crops.
[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 3 - 15]
"Kusavan [குயவன்].—The Kusavans [குயவன்] are the Tamil [தமிழர்] potters.
Abb.: Kusavans [குயவன்]
“The name,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Madras Census Report, 1891.), “is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word ku signifying earth, the material in which they work, and avan, a personal termination. They wear the sacred thread, and profess both Saivism [சைவ சமயம்] and Vaishnavism [வைணவ சமயம்]. Their ceremonials are somewhat like those of the Vellalas [வேளாளர்]. The eating of flesh is permitted, but not widow marriage. Some have priests of their own caste, while others employ Brāhmans. Kusavans [குயவன்] sometimes officiate as pūjāris [பூசாரி] in Pidāri temples. Their titles are Udayan and Vēlān. Their stupidity and ignorance are proverbial.”
At times of census, Kulālan [குலாலன் ] has been returned as a synonym of Kusavan [குயவன்], and Kusavan [குயவன்] as an occupational division of Paraiyans [பறையர்]. The Kusavans [குயவன்] are divided into the territorial sections Chōla [சோழர்], Chēra [சேரர்], and Pāndya [பாண்டியர்], and say that (Gazetteer of the Madura district.)
“these are descended from the three sons of their original ancestor Kulālan [குலாலன் ], who was the son of Brahma. He prayed to Brahma to be allowed, like him, to create and destroy things daily; so Brahma made him a potter.”
In ancient days, the potters made the large pyriform sepulchral urns, which have, in recent times, been excavated in Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], Madura [மதுரை], Malabar [മലബാര്], and elsewhere. Dr. G. U. Pope shows (Journ. Roy, Asiat. Soc, 1899, 267-8.) that these urns are mentioned in connection with the burial of heroes and kings as late as the eighth century A.D., and renders one of the Tamil [தமிழ்] songs bearing on the subject as follows:—
“ Oh ! potter chief......what toil hath befallen thee !
The descendant of the Cora [சோழர்] kings........
Hath gained the world of gods. And so
’Tis thine to shape an urn so vast
That it shall cover the remains of such an one.”
The legend concerning the origin of the potter classes is narrated in the article on Kummaras [కుమ్మర].
“It is,” Mr. E. Holder writes (Madras Pottery. Journ. Ind. Arts, VII, 1897.), “ supposed by themselves that they are descended from a Brāhmin father and Sūdra mother, for the sacrificial earthen vessels, which are now made by them, were, according to the Vēdas, intended to be made by the priests themselves. Some of the potters still wear the sacred thread, like the Kammālars [கம்மாளர்] or artisan class. They are generally illiterate, though some of their class have earned distinction as sound scholars, especially of late years. The women assist the men in their work, chiefly where delicacy of execution is needed. On the whole, the potters are a poor class compared with the Kammālar [கம்மாளர்] class, which includes jewellers, metal-workers and wood-workers. Their occupation is, on that account, somewhat despised by others.”
The potter’s apparatus is described by Monier Williams (Brahmanism and Hinduism.) as
“a simple circular horizontal well-balanced fly-wheel, generally two or three feet in diameter, which can be made to rotate for two or three minutes by a slight impulse. This the potter loads with clay, and then, with a few easy sweeps and turns of his hands, he moulds his material into beautiful curves and symmetrical shapes, and leaves the products of his skill to bake in the sun.”
By Mr. Holder the apparatus is described as follows.
“The potter’s implements are few, and his mode of working is very simple. The wheel, a clumsily constructed and defective apparatus, is composed of several thin pliable pieces of wood or bamboo, bent and tied together in the form of a wheel about 3½ feet in diameter. This is covered over thickly with clay mixed with goat’s hair or any fibrous substance. The four spokes and the centre on which the vessel rests are of wood. The pivot is of hard wood or steel. The support for the wheel consists of a rounded mass of clay and goat’s hair, in which is imbedded a piece of hard wood or stone, with one or two slight depressions for the axle or pivot to move in. The wheel is set into motion first by the hand, and then spun rapidly by the aid of a long piece of bamboo, one end of which fits into a slight depression in the wheel. The defects in the apparatus are—
- firstly its size, which requires the potter to stoop over it in an uneasy attitude ;
- secondly, the irregularity of its speed, with a tendency to come to a standstill, and to wave or wobble in its motion; and
- thirdly, the time and labour expended in spinning the wheel afresh every time its speed begins to slacken.
Notwithstanding, however, the rudeness of this machine, the potters are expert at throwing, and some of their small wares are thin and delicate. The usual manner in which most of the Madras potters bake their wares is as follows. A circular space, about ten feet in diameter, is marked out on the ground in any convenient open spot. Small pieces of wood and dried sticks are spread over this space to a depth of about six inches, and a layer of brattis (dried cow-dung cakes) laid over the sticks. The vessels are then carefully piled on top of this platform of fuel to a height of about five or six feet, and the whole heap is covered over with straw, and plastered over with clay, a few small openings being left here and there to allow the smoke to escape. These arrangements being completed, the fuel at the bottom is fired, and in the course of a few hours the process of baking is completed.”
When travelling in India, Dr. Jagor noticed that the potters of Salem [சேலம்] communicated to their ware a kind of polish, exactly like that seen on some of the specimens of antique pottery found in cromlechs. It was ascertained that the Salem potters use a seed for producing the polish, which was determined by Surgeon-General G. Bidie to be the seed of Gyrocarpus Jacquini [Gyrocarpus americanus Jacq.], which is also used for making rosaries and necklaces. Another method employed for producing a polish is to rub the surface of the baked vessel with the mucilaginous juice of tuthi [துத்தி] (Abutilon indicum [(Link) Sweet.]), and then fire the vessel again.
It is stated, in the Coimbatore Manual, that
“the potter never begins his day’s work at the wheel without forming into a lingam [இலிங்கம்] and saluting the revolving lump of clay, which, with the wheel, bears a strong resemblance to the usual sculptured conjunction ” (of lingam and yoni [யோனி]).
An old potter woman, whom I examined on this point, explained that the lump represents Ganēsa [கணேசன்]. In like manner, the pan coolies at the salt factories never scrape salt from the pans without first making a Pillayar [பிள்ளையார்] (Ganēsa) of a small heap of salt, on the top of which the salt is sometimes piled up.
Painted hollow clay images are made by special families of Kusavans [குயவன்] known as pūjāri [பூசாரி], who, for the privilege of making them, have to pay an annual fee to the headman, who spends it on a festival at the caste temple. When a married couple are anxious to have female offspring, they take a vow to offer figures of the seven virgins, who are represented all seated in a row. If a male or female recovers from cholera, small-pox, or other severe illness, a figure of the corresponding sex is offered. A childless woman makes a vow to offer up the figure of a baby, if she brings forth offspring. Figures of animals—cattle, sheep, horses, etc.—are offered at the temple when they recover from sickness, or are recovered after they have been stolen. The pupils of the eyes of the figures are not painted in till they are taken to the temple, where offerings of fruit, rice, etc., are first made. Even the pupils of a series of these images, which were specially made for me, were not painted at the potter’s house, but in the verandah of the traveller’s bungalow where I was staying. Horses made of clay, hollow and painted red and other colours, are set up in the fields to drive away demons, or as a thank-offering for recovery from sickness or any piece of good luck. The villagers erect these horses in honour of the popular deity Ayanar [ஐயனார்], the guardian deity of the fields, who is a renowned huntsman, and is believed, when, with his two wives Purna [பூர்ணா] and Pushkala [புஷ்கலை], he visits the village at night, to mount the horses, and ride down the demons. Ayanar [ஐயனார்] is said to be
“the special deity of the caste. Kusavans [குயவன்] are generally the pūjāris [பூசாரி] in his temples, and they make the earthenware (and brick and mortar) horses and images, which are placed before these buildings.” (Gazetteer of the Madura district.)
Abb.: Ayanar [ஐயனார்] temple
For the following note on a ceremony, in which the potters take part, I am indebted to an essay submitted in connection with the M.A. degree of the Madras University.
“Brāhmans of Vēdic times ate dogs, horses, bulls, and goats. The fondness for mutton even in a raw state finds its modern counterpart in the bloody hecatombs that disfigure some of their annual sacrifices. In these ceremonies called Pasubandha, Agnishtoma, Vajapeya, Garudachayana, etc., a goat is tied to a post, and, after the usual mantrams (prayers) and the service of frankincense, etc., is ablutioned in water mixed with turmeric and taken to the slaughter-room. And the method of slaughtering is most appalling. Two men appointed for the purpose, invariably men belonging to the pot-making community, rush into the apartment. One catches hold of the fore-quarter of the animal and keeps it from struggling, while the other squeezes the scrotum with so much violence that the animal succumbs in a few minutes, after writhing in the most painful fashion. The man in charge of the fore-quarter puts a handful of salt into the animal’s mouth, and holds it tight, lest the animal should bleat, and make the ceremony unsanctimonious. The carcase is now brought to the mailing shed, where, with crude knives and untrained hands, the Brāhmans peel off the skin most savagely. Then they cut open the chest, and it is a common sight to see these Brāhmans, uninitiated in the art of butchery, getting their hands severely poked or lacerated by the cut sharp ends of the ribs. Then portions of flesh are cut off from various portions of the carcase, such as the buccal region, the cardiac region, the scapular region, the renal, the scrotal, the gluteal and gastroenemial regions. The amount of flesh thus chopped comes to not less than three big potfuls, and they are cooked in water over the slow fire of a primitively constructed oven. No salt is put to season the meat, but the Brāhmans bolt it without any condiment in an awful fashion.”
The services of the potter are required in connection with the marriage ceremonial of many castes.
At some Brāhman marriages, for example, the tāli [தாலி] is tied on the bride’s neck in the presence of 33 crores (330 millions) of gods, who are represented by a number of variously coloured pots, large and small.
At a Lingāyat [லிங்காயதம்] wedding, new pots are brought with much shouting, and deposited in the room in which the household god is kept. An enclosure is made round the bride and bridegroom with cotton thread passed round four pots placed at the four corners of the marriage pandal [பந்தல்].
Among the Patnūlkārans, on the occasion of a wedding, a number of small pots are set up in a room, and worshipped daily throughout the marriage ceremonies. The ceremonial of breaking a pot containing water at the graveside prevails among many classes, eg., Oddēs, Toreyas, and Paraiyans [பறையர்].
At the time of the Aruvaththimūvar festival, or festival of the sixty-three saints, at Mylapore [மயிலப்பூர்] in the city of Madras, crowds may be seen returning homeward after attending it, each carrying a new pot (chatty), which they purchase so as not to go home empty-handed. At the festival of Tiruvottiyūr [திருவௌற்றியூர்], stalks of Amarantus gangeticus [L., nomen incertae sedis] are in like manner purchased.
It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that
“a Kusavan [குயவன்] can claim the hand of his paternal aunt’s daughter. Marriage occurs before puberty. The tāli [தாலி] is tied by the bridegroom’s sister, and the usual bride-price is paid. The ceremonies last three days. One of them consists in the bridegroom’s sister sowing seeds in a pot, and, on the last day of the wedding, the seedlings which have sprouted are taken with music to a river or tank (pond), and thrown into it. When the bride attains maturity, a ceremony is conducted by the caste priest, and consummation follows on the next auspicious day.”
Among the Kusavans [குயவன்] , divorce and remarriage are permissible on mutual agreement, on one party paying to the other the expenses of the latter’s original marriage (parisam). A case came before the High Court of Madras (Ind. Law Reports, Madras Series, XVII, 1894.), in which a Kusavan [குயவன்] woman in the Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி] district, on the ground of ill-treatment, repaid her husband the parisam, thereby dissolving the marriage, and married another man.
The potters are considered to be adepts in the treatment of cases of fracture. And it is still narrated how one of them successfully set in splints the broken arm of Lord Elphinstone [John Elphinstone, 13th Lord Elphinstone and 1st Baron Elphinstone, 1807 - 1860], when Governor of Madras [மதராஸ்], after the English doctors had given up the job as hopeless (A Native. Pen and ink sketches of Native life in S. India.).
“In our village,” it is recorded (Madras Mail.), “cases of dislocations of bones and fractures, whether simple, compound, comminuted or complicated, are taken in hand by the bone-setters, who are no other than our potters. The village barber and the village potter are our surgeons. While the barber treats cases of boils, wounds, and tumours, the potter confines himself to cases of fracture and dislocations of bones.”
The amateur treatment by the unqualified potter sometimes gives rise to what is known as potter’s gangrene.
For the notes of the following case I am indebted to Captain F. F. Elwes, I.M.S. A bricklayer, about a month and a half or two months prior to admission into hospital, fell from a height, and injured his left arm. He went to a potter, who placed the arm and forearm in a splint, the former in a line with the latter, i.e., fully extended. He kept the splint on for about a month and, when it was removed, found that he was unable to bend the arm at the elbow-joint. When he was examined at the hospital, practically no movement, either active or passive, could be obtained at the elbow-joint. The lower end of the humerus could be felt to be decidedly thickened both anteriorly and posteriorly. There had apparently been a fracture of the lower end of the humerus. Röntgen ray photographs showed an immense mass of callus extending over the anterior surface of the elbow-joint from about two and a half inches above the lower end of the humerus to about an inch below the elbow-joint. There was also some callus on the posterior surface of the lower end of the humerus.
Concerning potter’s gangrene, Captain W. J. Niblock, I.M.S., writes as follows (Trans. S. Ind. branch, Brit. Med. Association, XIV, 1906.).
“Cases of gangrene, the result of treatment of fractures by the village potters, used to be frequently met with in the General Hospital, Madras [மதராஸ்]. These were usually brought when the only possible treatment consisted in amputation well above the disease. Two of these cases are indelibly impressed on my mind. Both were cases of gangrene of the leg, the result of tight splinting by potters. The first patient was a boy of thirteen. Whilst a student was removing the dressings on his admission, the foot came off in his hands, leaving two inches of the lower ends of the tibia and fibula exposed, and absolutely devoid of all the soft tissues, not even the periosteum being left. The second case was that of a Hindu man, aged 46. He was taken to the operation theatre at once. Whilst engaged in disinfecting my hands, I heard a dull thud on the floor of the operation theatre, turned round, and found that the gangrenous leg, as the result of a struggle whilst chloroform was being administered, had become separated at the knee-joint, and had fallen on floor; or, to put it tersely, the man had kicked his leg off.”
In connection with the Tamil [தமிழ்] proverb
“This is the law of my caste, and this is the law of my belly,”
the Rev. H. Jensen notes (Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897.) that
“potters are never Vaishnavas [வைணவ]; but potters at Srirangam [ஸ்ரீரங்கம்] were compelled by the Vaishnava Brāhmans to put the Vaishnava mark on their foreheads ; otherwise the Brāhmans would not buy their pots for the temple. One clever potter, having considered the difficulty, after making the Saivite [சைவ] symbol on his forehead, put a big Vaishnava mark on his stomach. When rebuked for so doing by a Brahman, he replied as above.”
“Does the dog that breaks the pots understand how difficult it is to pile them up?”
is said by Jensen to have reference to the pots which are piled up at the potter’s house. A variant is
“What is many days’ work for the potter is but a few moment’s work for him who breaks the pots.”
In the Madura [மதுரை] district, the Kusavans [குயவன்] have Vēlan as a title.
The insigne of the Kusavans [குயவன்], recorded at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], is a potter’s wheel."
[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 188 - 197]
"7. THE POTTER (Kusavan[ குசவன்]).
Abb.: THE POTTER.
No Indian village could exist without the help of a potter. According to the classifications of India, the potter belongs to a subdivision of one of the classes in this land of caste. He wears a sacred thread in order to indicate that he belongs to the old Aryan stock, and he has a tuft of hair on the front part of his head, which distinguishes him from all other classes of the community, except a certain class of Brahmins in the Travancore country, and a certain class of people in Malabar. The term Kusavan [குசவன்] (a potter) is said to be derived from the Sanscrit word ku, signifying 'earth,’ which is the material in which he works. Avan is a personal termination. There are 124,332 potters in Southern India itself.
The potter lives in a village which he finds suited to his calling, and this he makes his centre. He has a district of villages to which he supplies his pots. He is unlike the dhoby [டோபி] and the barber, for he does not get his wages from the villagers generally. He has a simple machine, which has remained unaltered for some two thousand years. He takes no trouble to improve his machinery or to lessen his manual labour. He and his family are the workers in his workshop. The material he works with is clay, and this he prepares at great cost of time and labour. He digs up the earth, and brings it home, and begins by straining it. Then he puts this earth in a corner of his yard, and pours water over it constantly. He and his wife spend hours together in treading this clay. Then he takes it, and puts it in a mill, which grinds it suitably for his purpose. According to the design he has in his mind, he takes up a certain quantity of clay, and forms it into a round ball, which he places on the top of his machine. This machine is made out of a few pieces of wood in the form of a wheel. He puts the wheel in motion, and when it revolves he touches the clay ball with a well-shaped small wooden piece on all sides of the ball to give the formation of the vessel which he wants to bring out.
The method and instruments with which he works are simple, but the skill that he displays in shaping the particular form of vessel he requires is very remarkable. After turning the vessel upon the wheel, he takes it into his hands, and touches it here and there with a piece of wood. When he finishes in this way a certain number of vessels for cooking and other purposes, he exposes them to the sun to be dried. For this purpose the winter season is not suited. When the vessels are dried they are kept in a hole and covered up with stubble, dry cow-dung and straw. When the vessels are burnt in a kiln, they are left in it to be cooled during one day and one night. Then the potter brings them home. He separates the vessels according to the number of orders which he has received. He lays up all the pots, numbering twenty-five to thirty, in a nest made out of ropes. He carries a load himself, and engages others also to carry the loads, and walks to some distant village, where he supplies the goods that were ordered.
If the villagers are in a hurry for the vessels they go to his house to fetch them.
Among the different kinds of vessel which a potter makes are pots, small or large, for cooking food ; hollow pans for making Indian curries or soups; flat pans to fry meat or Indian vegetables ; waterpots of large and small size ; tubs for watering the domestic animals; a number of pots, both large and small, in which to store up the provisions, and these are generally called adduku panais (studded pots in rows). This row of pots is used to secure the valuables ; the small pots and vessels are used to carry the food of a farmer to the fields. The poor class of people use earthen articles for the purpose of eating and drinking. Besides these, the potter makes earthen rings for water wells, and small, movable jars to hold grain.
In the form of wages, the potter has a fixed measure of grain annually from every farmer to whom he supplies the necessary vessels twice in the year. If they want any vessel during the interval, they must pay the usual price for it. The labouring class should pay the price of every vessel which they purchase from him. In a wealthy farmer’s house might be found about 300 vessels, large and small. In the house of a labourer there would be from ten to thirty vessels of the most necessary kinds. Some of the village officials get vessels forcibly from the poor potters by exercising an undue authority over them.
Whatever may be the usefulness of the potter, one thing is certain, he creates innumerable gods and goddesses for the villagers. And he also makes for them images of dogs, elephants, cows, tigers, horses, cocks and hens, children, men and women, of monstrous size and having a frightful appearance. These images are offered by the villagers at the demon temples.
The potters, as a class, are simple-minded, harmless folk. They will never face a man who tries to pick a quarrel with them. They, like other villagers, find no opportunity to educate their children. They move in a limited circle, and it is little wonder they do not care to improve themselves, for they have always to meddle with mud, and mud alone. To illustrate the simplicity of a potter, we may give here one instance. On a certain day, the village chief sent his peon to the village where the potter lived, and he was to bring certain vessels from the potter for nothing. Knowing of this, the potter went to a palm-grove, and hid himself there. The peon who passed by that way saw a man standing under a palm-tree. But the peon was not able to make out that he was the potter. So he simply asked him : ‘Why are you standing there ?’ The man replied : ‘ I am looking at the palm-tree, and thinking whether I could make a plough for myself.’ The peon then said : ‘Ah ! you are a Kusavan [குசவன்] ' (a potter or a fool). ‘ Would anyone use a palm-tree for a plough? It is quite unusual.’ Then said the potter : ‘ Ah ! how could you know that I was here ?’ At once the peon knew that he was the village potter, to whom he was going, and caught him by the hand, and said : ‘Lo, fellow ! you have been hiding yourself under the palms. Now come on and give me the vessels.’"
[Quelle: Pandian, T. B. (Thomas B.) [பாண்டியன், தாமஸ் பி] <1863 - >: Indian village folk: their works and ways. -- London : Stock, 1898. -- 212 S. : Ill. ; 21 cm. -- S. 53 - 56]
"Odāri.—The Odāris or Vodāris are Tulu-speaking [ತುಳು] potters in the South Canara district. Those who have abandoned the profession of potter call themselves Mūlia, as also do some potters, and those who are employed as pūjāris [ಪೂಜಾರಿ] (priests) at bhūthasthanas [ಭೂತಸ್ಥಾನ] (devil shrines). In many cases, the headman combines the duties of that office with those of pūjāris [ಪೂಜಾರಿ], and is called Mūlia. Otherwise his title is Gurikāra.
The Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] potters in South Canara, in making pots, use the ordinary wheel, which is rotated by means of a long stick. The wheel of the Odāris is more primitive, consisting of a small disc, concave above, made of unburnt clay, fitting by means of a pebble pivot into a pebble socket, which is rotated by hand.
Like other Tulu castes, the Odāris worship bhūthas [ಭೂತ], but also reverence Venkatarāmana [ವೆಂಕಟರಮಣ].
In their marriage ceremonial, the Odāris follow the Bant type. At the betrothal, the headmen or fathers of the contracting couple exchange betel, and the party of the future bridegroom give a ring to the people of the bride-elect. The marriage rites are completed in a single day. A bench is placed within the marriage pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್] (booth), and covered with clothes brought by the Madivāli [ಮಡಿವಾಳಿ] (washerman caste). The bridegroom is conducted thither by the bride’s brother, and, after going round three times, takes his seat. He is generally preceded by women carrying lights, rice and fruits before him. The lamp is hung up, and the other articles are deposited on the ground. One by one, the women throw a grain of rice, first over the lamp, and then a few grains over the head of the bridegroom. Then the barber comes, and, after throwing rice, shaves the face of the bridegroom, using milk instead of water. The bride is also shaved by a barber woman. The pair are decorated, and brought to the pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್], where those assembled throw rice over their heads, and make presents of money. Their hands are then united by the headman, and the dhāre water poured over them by the maternal uncle of the bride.
An interesting rite in connection with pregnancy is the presentation of a fowl or two to the pregnant woman by her maternal uncle. The fowls are tended with great care, and, if they lay eggs abundantly, it is a sign that the pregnant woman will be prolific.
The dead are either buried or cremated. If cremation is resorted to, the final death ceremonies (bojja) must be celebrated on the eleventh or thirteenth day. If the corpse has been buried, these ceremonies must not take place before the lapse of at least a month."
[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 5. -- S. 421f.]