Terracotta is clay-based ceramic pottery known for its expression of the human mind for ages. According to Hindu beliefs, this ancient form is considered auspicious for incorporating all the five classical elements of nature, namely, air, water, earth, fire, and space.
Tracing back to its history, Terracotta models were found in abundance from the sites of Indus Valley Civilization like Birhana, Mehrgarh, Harappa, Mohenjodaro, etc. which dates backs to around 7000 BC. Later trades were also carried out between territories exchanging terracotta items and figurines. Merchants used Terracotta seals carved with signs, scripts, human and animal figures for their stamping purposes. Remains from the Maurya dynasty (322 - 185 BCE) especially from its capital Patalipura, held realistic and spiritually inclined forms of Terracotta figures like the famous dancing lady and squatting yaksha, which is treasured in the Patna Museum now. While in the Buddhist period, the depictions on terracotta objects turned more secular than religious context. Slowly it was welcomed by Indian households in the form of kitchenware and other utility products, and gradually growing into homemade art and ottery. States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh still cherish their cultural heritage that propagates around Terracotta art, with distinctive crafts like hand-made jars, embroidered rooftops, and lanterns. This rich history proves the prevalence of the art and its cultural contribution in the Indian continent long before the world could try this out.
The name Terracotta is derived from the Latin words ‘terra’ meaning ‘bake’ and ‘cotta’ stands for ‘earth’, which together translates to baked earth. These earthenwares are either glazed or unglazed versions made from clay that is dried and fired at 1000°C, giving a distinctly orange, red, brown, yellow, or grey color. Once burned, it is cooled and brought to normal temperature by covering it in the sand. Therefore its color depends on both the type of clay used as well as the firing process. Terracotta art has also grown as a favorite hobby among people apart from its popular commercial value and stance. Hence the natives could still practice and maintain the art in its most authentic tradition. Here the glazed pottery has been in existence for thousands of years in India, while the unglazed pottery items are the ones that the country is renowned for internationally. On the trading front, today, India exports incredible terracotta items like statues, vases, decorative hangings, murals, Diwali lamps, lanterns, etc., on a large scale making the art form a rewarding one for the artisans. Mr. Anil Denghe, a senior artisan from Ahmednagar, is regarded for his range of mythical terracotta products. He trained by the famous clay artisan Mr. Arjun Shekatkar is felicitated with several reputable awards by the Government of Maharashtra for his contribution to the area.