During our trip to Udaipur in 2015, Samiksha and I made sure to visit Molela, a village known for its terracotta work. We had no idea what to expect or knew if we would find anything but we were pleasantly surprised.
Molela is a quiet, unassuming village, about 60 kms from Udaipur. It is registered under the Geographical Indications Act for its unique terracotta plaques. The Kumhars (potters) of Molela are devoted to their work. They create a range of products like votives , bells, lamps, pots but their speciality lies in the hand-made hollow relief panels. Through these panels they beautifully narratives from their everyday life and of Hindu deities.
There are many folklores surrounding the origin of the craft. The potters believe that their skills are a blessing from God Devnararyan also known as Dharmaraj ji. Shyamlal Kumhar of Molela says “This is our ancestral occupation. Our forefathers were blessed by the gods to do this work, and we will continue it for as long as we can.”
The clay for this work comes from the banks of the Banas river. The clay is kneaded by hand many times to make it smooth and easy to work with. They also use donkey dung powder in the process. The hollow figurines are carefully moulded by hands and adorned with intricate details.
Every year around January and February, a group of Adivasis come from Mount Abu to the potters of Molela to buy idols. It can be of any god or goddess – Maataji, Bhairunji, Dharamrajji etc. Sometimes, the temples also procure 40-50 idols from them. As per tradition, The potters offer the entire group one meal during their visit.
We met Shyamlal Kumhar in Molela and he showed us around his humble workshop and shared his work-in-progress with us. He showed us a french magazine where his work was featured. He was invited to France by a design studio where he demonstrated his work.
Watching him work his magic was nothing short of spectacular. The process was absolutely mesmerising and seamless. It amazes me how we have the same two hands, but his innate skills make them so much more powerful.