World’s only pottery made without clay in Jaipur

If you have visited Jaipur, it is likely that you would have come across decorative blue pottery at bazaars and shopping centers. The blue pottery here is a brand in itself. But when did they emerge and how significant are they today?

 

When you pop into Jaipur, it is likely that you will find pretty tea sets, jars, vases doing the rounds. The ivory white and striking cobalt blue colour is the result of an art form called blue Pottery.


The shape and texture of blue pottery are quite similar to Islamic and Chinese pottery. Known to have originated in Persia, it is possibly one of the only forms of pottery in the world which doesn’t use clay. Instead blue pottery is put together with the help of quartz stone powder, powered glass, fuller’s Earth (commonly known as multani mitti), gum, borax, soda bicarbonate and water. 



Tracing the origin

Historians cite that this blue pottery was first conceptualised by Mongol artisans who used a combination of Chinese glazing techniques and Persian art to make it. The art form became popular with Turkey’s conquest in the 14th Century. 


In Central Asia, the techniques of blue pottery were leveraged to make tiles to deck up mosques, tombs and palaces. And with the entry of Mughals the beautiful craft made its way to India (then Hindustan). Gradually, from an architectural accessory it became a revered artistry, thanks to Indian potters. 


But it wasn’t till the 17th century that it spread its wings to Jaipur. It took another two centuries for it to become prominent in the Pink City. Subsequently, Sawai Ram Singh II, who was then the Maharaja of Jaipur from 1835 to 1880, sent local artisans to Delhi to learn the craft. After they got back, they lined the fountains in Rambagh Palace with blue tiles.


Getting back on track 

After gaining a lot of popularity, blue pottery got lost in the pages of history during the 1950s. Its usage diminished considerably. However, Kripal Singh Shekhawat, a renowned muralist and painter at the time, re-introduced it and made it a part of Jaipur’s identity. 


The tutelage of Lala Ram Ji Prajapat played a huge role in keeping the art form alive. He has been recognised by the Central and State Government of India for his contribution in the domain since 1991. 



When asked about what makes blue pottery unique, he said, “This is an age old art and survived in Jaipur and nearby villages. As an artisan I can say it's not only my source of income but my passion too.”


Sameer Saran, a guide who works with Meet India Journeys, adds, “Jaipur is one of the few cities which provides ample space and platform for blue pottery to flourish. As a professional in the tourism industry, it is my duty to ensure people are aware of it and also help in preserving the art so that future generations can carry it forward.”

Crafting in blue

While traditionally, blue pottery was known for its floral, animal or arabesque (linear patterns) designs on tiles, today, the techniques are applied to produce surahis, lamp shades, urns, dinner sets and accessories. Typically available in blue or greenish blue colours against white semi-translucent or opaque backdrops, they are now securable in a variety of colours like yellow, dark blue and brown.


Blue pottery is a major source of livelihood for several artisans in and around Jaipur. Lalaji himself makes anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 every month from it, depending on orders. While it is the individual buyers who display interest in buying blue pottery pieces from his home-run venture in a village near Jaipur, they also get bulk orders from organisations such as Neerja International, Setu Sansthan (NGO), Tiloniya Center, Sundari Silk (Chennai), CCI (Delhi), and Craft Root (Gujarat).


Besides its eye-catching colour, one of the most important attributes of this form of pottery is that it doesn’t develop cracks. Nevertheless, it is extremely fragile and needs to be handled with care.


Now that you know about the significance and intricacy involved in this art form, do check it out the next time you are in Jaipur. 


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff

 

Resources to get to know more about blue pottery: 


Jaipur Blue Pottery: Heritage Art of Pink city, India


Discarded sinks find new life as Jaipur Blue Pottery