As people's aesthetic tastes change, there is a growing fascination with boho and "desi" culture. This has led to an increased demand for traditional crafts and artefacts that can be used for home decoration. One example of such a craft is Jaipur's Blue Pottery, which belongs to a group of Eurasian blue and white pottery types. The shapes and decorations of this pottery are similar to those found in Islamic and Chinese pottery. The designs on the pottery are inspired by nature and are adorned with animals, birds, and flowers, along with some Persian geometric patterns. Mughal arabesque designs and animal themes are found on some of the semi-transparent earthenware. As a result, the semi-transparent pottery displays a delicate fusion of Mughal arabesque patterns and unusual bird and animal motifs not often found in Persian art with Islamic heritage.
The Blue Pottery of Jaipur is characterized by a limited colour palette consisting of blue from cobalt oxide, green from copper oxide, and white. Occasionally, non-conventional colours like yellow and brown are used. A variety of products are crafted from this technique, including plates, soap dishes, small pitchers, coasters, door knobs, and glazed tiles featuring hand-painted floral designs. Additionally, designer pieces for display are sometimes created. This craft is primarily associated with Jaipur but can also be found in Sanganer, Mahalan, and Neota. The Blue Potteryof Jaipur has a rich history.
The pottery is named after the striking cobalt blue pigment used to colour it, hence the name "blue pottery." It belongs to a group of blue and white pottery types found in Eurasia, and its shapes and decoration are similar to those found in Islamic and Chinese pottery, albeit distantly related.1 The use of blue glaze on pottery originated from a technique imported from Central Asia. Mongol artisanswere the first to combine Chinese glazing technology with Persian decorative arts, and this technique eventually made its way to India during early Turkic conquests in the 14th century. Initially, the technique was used to create tiles for adorning mosques, tombs, and palaces in Central Asia. Later, when the Mughals arrived in India and began using this technique, it gradually expanded beyond being solely an architectural accessory. Eventually, Indian potters also started using this technique, and it spread to the plains of Delhi. In the 17th century, it arrived in Jaipur and continued to gain popularity. 2 During the early 19th century, Sawai Ram Singh II played a significant role in introducing blue pottery to Jaipur. He sent local artisans to Delhi to receive training in this craft. The Rambagh Palace features some examples of older ceramic work, where the fountains are embellished with blue tiles. Sawai Ram Singh was a devoted patron of the arts during his reign (1835-1880) in Jaipur state. According to legend, he was so impressed by the art of blue pottery that he invited artists from Delhi to come to Jaipur. However, Jaipur Blue Pottery went beyond just replicating Delhi potteryand instead introduced original innovations and mastery to the craft, eventually surpassing Delhi pottery. In fact, The Journal of Indian Art in 1916 noted that Jaipur ware improved Delhi pottery.3 Despiteits earlier popularity, blue pottery had virtually disappeared from Jaipur by the 1950s. The reintroduction of the craft to the city was only made possible through the efforts of muralist and painter Kripal Singh Shekhawat, who received support from patrons like Kamladevi Chattopadhaya and Rajmata GayatriDevi.4,5
The process of creating blue pottery is a complex one that involves many steps. Due to the low firing temperature, the process is delicate and risky. Blue pottery is unique from traditional pottery due to the absence of clay. Instead, the materials used to create it include quartz stone powder, powdered glass, borax, gum, and Fuller's Earth (Multani mitti), which are mixed with water to form a dough. The dough is rolled and flattened to form a 4-5 millimetre thick pancake-like shape, which is then placed in a plaster of Paris mould with a mixture of pebbles and ash. The mold is carefully maintained for multiple uses. After the product is removed from the mould and dried for 1-2 days, it is cleanedand shaped before being polished with sandpaper to create a smooth surface. The product is then painted with motifs and coated with glaze before being fully dried and placedin a furnace.
In the traditional method, artisans used to perform a prayer before setting up the furnace, and some artists still adhere to this practice to pray for successful pottery baking. The procedure of preparing the boiler for fire is delicate, and any error might result in fractures in the finished product. The pottery is placed inside the furnace to dry, and firing takes place for approximately 4-5 hours with meticulous care to maintain even temperatures and prevent any cracks. After firing, the artisans wait for the kiln to cool off completely before taking out the products, which can take 2-3 days. The finished products are then lightly cleaned before being showcased or packaged.
Currently, blue pottery has become a thriving industry in Jaipur, providing employment opportunities to numerous individuals. Despite the emergence of new designs and vessels, Jaipur blue pottery has managed to preserve its traditional blue colour and motifs, making it easily recognizable. As a result of its revitalization, several blue pottery shops and training schools have emerged in Jaipur. Kripal Kumbh, the pottery studio established by Kripal Singh Shekhawat, continues to operate today.6 RUDA, the Rural Non-farm Development Agency, was founded in 1995 with the objective of promoting Rajasthan artisans globally.7 They have also played a significant role in promoting Jaipur's blue pottery. Mrs Leela Bordia, who received ceramic training in the USA, has been instrumental in expanding the reach of blue pottery beyond traditional vessels. She has introduced the art form into jewellery making, with items such as beads, necklaces, and pendants, as well as tiles and bathroom fittings, which have gained popularity among interior decorators.8 Efforts are required to revive and promote the art of blue pottery. This can be achieved through sustained training of artists to use standardized tools, diversifying into utility products beyond decorative ones, and enabling marketing avenues. The Sawai Ram Singh Shilp Kala Mandir is a notable training centre in Jaipur, but many artists also conduct short training programs at their workshops to sustain the legacy of Jaipur blue pottery. Crafts like blue pottery are a representation of our cultural heritage, and it is crucial to preserveand promote them for futuregenerations.
1. Aanchal Bhardwaj (2018). Evolution of Blue Pottery Industry in Rajasthan. InternationalJournal of Researchand Analytical Reviews.Volume 5 I Issue 3
2. Subodh Kapoor (2002)."Blue Pottery of Jaipur". The Indian Encyclopaedia. Cosmo Publications.
3. NOTES ON JAIPUR POTTERY. The Journal of Indian Art and Industries, 1886-1916; London Vol. 17, Iss. 129-136
4. Daniel Jacobes& Gavin Thomas, 2010,“Rough Guide to Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra”
5. "Blue Pottery" (PDF). All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association. Archivedfrom the original(PDF) on 1 August 2015.
6. Kripal Kumbh http://kripalkumbh.com/2index.html
7. Colour me bright & blue https://www.deccanherald.com/content/530097/colour-me-bright-blue.html
8. Ms. Bhumija Dipti, A. K. Gupta and Rajesh Jain, A Historical and Artistic Study Of Blue Pottery of Jaipur
9. Blue Pottery History, http://jaipurbluepottery.in/History.aspx
10. BLUE POTTERY https://gaatha.com/blue-pottery-jaipur/
11. Tryst with Tradition: Exploring Rajasthan Throughthe Alankar Museum,Jawahar Kala Kendra
12. D'source Design Resource on Blue Pottery - Jaipur, Rajasthan https://www.dsource.in/resource/blue-pottery-jaipur-rajasthan-0