The story of clay pottery


The history of Bangladeshi pottery as an art form is an old one, dating as far back as the Mohenjodaro and Harappa civilisation. Some earthenware was found after the excavation of Mahasthangarh in Bogra (300 BC). In addition to that, the Paharpur and Mainamoti excavation sites yielded some truly exquisite pieces. The terracotta art used in the Kantajee temple of Dinajpur is fascinating in terms of texture and quality. The ‘Neelpadma’ found in Lalmai Hills of Comilla is unparalleled. Some of these artefacts have been carefully preserved in museums. Folk arts of these categories are now being used most tastefully in modern designs, and for decoration purposes in contemporary lifestyle.

During the Mughal period, Rayer Bazar was famous for pottery and most of the potters were from this region. The famous “lalmati” (Red Clay) was available in this place in abundance. As a result, the potters of Rayer Bazar have a long tradition of working with red clay. According to Dr. Wise, this place was known as “Kumartoli” in the Mughal period. However, times have changed significantly and today most of the manufacturers have moved to Dhamrai.

After long time, again I felt a deep interest about Rayer Bazar’s clay stores. My friend Pias Mojid, also a well-known poet and resident of the area, accompanied me to re-discover the famous clay stores of the area. In my observation, these are not exactly retail stores; they are wholesale entrepreneurs. I was really fascinated with their traditional style of storing clay pottery. We started walking in front of Akra Mandir. First we visited an open green, which was a private land.

Here, we found a very unusual scenario. While we are all used to plant pots and plates and Hari for halim, I have never seen such clay potteries stock in a beautiful setting. Kumars are experts in placing one pot over another neatly, and safely. They stack the hari upside down. Generally, we can see these stacked up to three feet. But this time, some really huge half-circular hari were nicely stacked. Plant pots were displayed all around. The Rayer Bazar of today is dotted with multi-storeyed buildings. The green field we were in was also surrounded by multi storeyed buildings. I felt that this garden of clay would soon be enveloped by concrete too!

We took some quick snap shots and started walking. We visited some old stores full of many varieties of clay utensil. The most interesting part of the clay store is how they maintained their store. It is very amazing; they used to create different sections for different items. Caves of clay products are made of bamboo. The crisscross bamboo partition separated one section’s product from another. For creating additional storage space, they created mezzanine floor or Macha. So, the kumars have their own style of store management. We bought a beautiful clay plate for our Pahela Baishakh lunch. Clay jug, bowls, glass, vases are really attractive for table décor.

Pottery is now a commercial product. The combination of pottery and green plants can be effectively used to upgrade any interior décor. Glazed and unglazed khumbamatkas (water pots), figurines of birds and animals, and many other items are easily available almost anywhere such as the Shishu Academy, Mirpur Road, the Dhaka railway station, and are all made locally.

Bringing about a few simple, but dramatic changes to your interior décor does not require a lot of money. Locally manufactured earthenware, in tandem with plants and rocks, logs, or other natural accessories can spice up any corner, within a low budget.