No full circle for pottery

KHOTANG: The marginalised Kumal community in the district is facing an occupational crisis.

The culprit: overseas employment. Traditionally, the older generation would teach their skills to a new generation. However, the younger ones are more interested in heading to distant lands, keeping the age-old tradition of pottery at bay.

“We have been continuing the profession for the past seven generations, but it is on the verge of extinction,” Lalit Bahadur Shrestha, a resident of Khalle said. According to Shrestha, there were 21 pottery wheels in the village during his father’s time. Now there are only four.

“The profession requires courage and physical energy. However, the youths these days are lazy,” Shrestha says.

The market for pottery is still good. There are two market days every week in Hatdanda, Diktel. All the items that we take there are sold, another potter, Durga Bahadur Shrestha says. “We cannot fulfil the demand because the clay is not enough,” he says.

The clay for utensils usually needs to be dug from a tunnel several meters deep.

According to the Kumals, a family can earn about Rs. 60,000 annually by selling pottery. The earthen utensils are used to store alcohol and water, roast corn, and or burn oil lamps.

Keeping the occupation alive involves teaching the technology and skills to a new generation.

“I tried to teach the technology to my sons and grandson, however, I could not,” Lalit Bahadur Shrestha, 49, from Diktel said. “They don’t want to become dirty.”

Pottery has its base in different places of Khotang including Khalle, Simpani, Khotangbazaar, Batase, Rajapani, Yamkha and Sapteshwor Chhitapokhari.