Use of Terracotta
Plates in Kashmir
by Verender Bangroo
is an age old relation between the clay and man. The simplest medium easily
available has been the soft clay. Clay well kneaded with a proportioned
amount of water is easily malleable. From times immemorial man has used
this medium to express himself. Clay when baked takes a new form, called
the terracotta. The terracotta in India has had a long history. Terracotta
figures are shaped in all forms, in the round and in relief illustrating
a variety of themes. The potter who used to make terracottas held an important
position in society. Almost in every mohalla there was a terracotta centre.
In olden days the potter served some particular homes only and he used
to make waterpots, milkpots, vessels for cooking food and in return he
received grains and money. Even now in the far flung areas of Kashmir,
this tradition continues. Although metallic utensils have replaced the
terracotta vessels, still it is a flourishing craft. Pottery has a great
role to play in man's life. Apart from its domestic and kitchen use, it
is used in ceremonies. No ceremony is complete without the use of pottery.
In Kashmir, pottery has an indispensable role owing to its use in both
domestic and ritualistic purposes.
having ring like base is called Tabich and the shallow dish is called Toak
in Kashmiri. The difference is in the size; the big one with a thick rim
and a ring like base is called Tabich (plural-Tabchih) and the smaller
one with the thin rim and without ring like base is called Toak (plural-Taek).
These plates were used in ceremonies where there was abundant use of terracotta
material. The tradidonal use of terracotta plates in Kashmir has not died
- right from the birth ceremony to death ceremony, terracotta plates are
used. These are still used in marriages for serving food in some rural
areas in Kashmir.
In the village
marriage feasts, some 50 years back, food was only served in the terracotta
plates (tabchih); sitting arrangement for the people coming with the marriage
party was made on the dry paddy grass. Dry clay was scattered in front
of them and the terracotta plates to serve dishes were kept on it for the
serving purpose. This tradition has now completely vanished and is a thing
of the past. These plates (Taek and Tabchih) were used for one serving
only and later on the broken postshreds mixed with paddy grass and clay
were used for constructing and building purposes, called Yandrah Dosah
in Kashmir. Excavations at neolithic sites, Burzhom and Guphkral have revealed
similar types of wall constructions.
First time shaving
the head of the male child with the razor blade is celebrated on some auspicious
date at some famous tirtha like Martanda in Kashmir. Friends and relatives
are invited on this ceremony. Cooked dried peas, yellow rice and sweet
puddings are the special dish for this special occasion. Terracotta plates
find special use here. Seven walnuts and shaved hairs of the child are
kept in a terracotta plate (Toak). Hair and walnuts are to be sown after
the ceremony is over, at a place adjacent to the child's house. Great care
is taken of the budding walnut tree.
Devagon is a prefunction
requirement performed before the thread ceremony and marriage ceremony.
A small yajna is performed and for this ceremony, terracotta plates have
a great importance, so to say seven plates filled with special preparations
are offered to seven goddesses. In Hindu mythology, number seven has a
great significance. Seven goddesses called Saptmatrikas are (I) Varahi,
(2) Maheshwari, (3) Vaishnavi, (4) Chamunda, (5) Kumari, (6) Brahmani,
(7) Indrani. They are the important tantric goddesses worshipped either
in a group or as individuals. Stone images of Chamunda, Vaishnavi, Varahi,
Indrani are housed in Sri Pratap Museum, Srinagar.
filled with sweet rice puddings (kheer) are decorated with walnuts, coloured
sacred threads, cooked vegetable (Haend) and kidney beans. These plates (Tabchih) are called Divitsi Tabchih (plates belonging to goddesses). After
the yajna is over these are given to the nearest relatives as blessing
to remain fresh and green for months together in the sealed terracotta
plates. Kalhana and Bilhana speak of its abundance in the Kashmir valley.
According to Nilmata, Draksa or Grapes are mentioned as an offering for
the gods. In Kashmir, many surnames are based on nick-names. Due to every
day use, terracotta plates (Taek) finds its place in the surnames also,
with a slight modification, like Tak and Taku.
its domestic and ritualistic use, many idioms have come to be coined with
reference to the terracotta plates:
Chhuk Aamut Vahravahna. (Irretrievably disturbed).
Taeky Zan Chhis
Raevmit (Disgusted and disturbed).
Khasan Khirih Taek (Whatever comes to his mind he vomits out).
Kadai Rath (Very very harsh).
Kyath (Making false promise).
Chhuk (Crooked person).
Aapravin (To talk with affection).
Chuk Haven (Meaningless projections).
Akh Dudah ta
Beyi Maajih Kyut Toak (You are yourself an unwanted guest, yet you ask