The Sacred Icon Terracotta Plaques of Molela, Rajasthan

Art History/Craft History, Craft, Handloom, Art

The Sacred Icon Terracotta Plaques of Molela, Rajasthan

Sethi, Ritu

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In Rajasthan the colours of the earth change as we cross the region with the shades of the mud covered walls reflecting the subtle differences in the soil. Terracotta water-pots, the cooking and storage vessels, the votive offerings either shaped on the wheel or moulded by hand by the Kumbhar potters here are nuanced to suit their local village customers. Amongst the many villages in Rajasthan where the craft of pottery continues to be practiced it is the customary work of Molela that makes it an important hub on the terracotta map. Molela is a largish village about 45 kms from Udaipur. The Kumbhar community here have for generations crafted terracotta deities for worship by their traditional clients. The images of folk deities sculpted by them are those that are particularly sacred in Rajasthan like Dev Narainji and Pabuji whose lives and heroic deeds are celebrated through ballads, worship and all-night recitals. Other legendary sacred folk heroes and heroines such as Tejaji, Gora Bhairon, Kala Bhairon, Vasuki, Bhoona, Panchmukhi and others. The gods and mother-goddesses of the Hindu pantheon are additionally sculpted here in iconographic detail. In addition their range includes the Nagdevta, the many-hooded serpent god worshipped since ancient times, whose believers are rooted in animistic cults and in mainstream worship. In the lunar month of Maag, that falls between January and February the members of the Bhil, Mina, Garijat, Gujjar and other tribal communities travel to Molela with their Bhopa, the priest-bard of their sect to select the  image of th...
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