Venkata Ramana Amma the terracotta pottery maker Photo: theTelugus.com

On the highway leading to Madanapalle, and leading out of Madanapalle, you will see terracotta pottery and its vendors on the roadside. The terracotta are both utilitarian and decorative works such as bowls, pans, pots, holders for incense, cups to light lamps with oil, wall hangings that refer to symbols of good omens, statuettes, vases, images of venerable figures, objects for architectural embellishment, relief ornamentation and many more.

Terracotta literally means baked earth. Terracotta is a type of earthenware, a form of ceramic, and the earthenware objects are clay-based, unglazed. Another meaning of terracotta is a kind of colour: brownish orange.

theTelugus.com met an artisan named Venkata Ramana Amma at Angallu. She said there are about twenty families whose livelihoods are related to pottery and are in the production of earthenware works. She also revealed how her life as an artisan got better. The artisans received support from the previous government headed by N. Chandra Babu Naidu (2014-2019) in the form of getting machinery to mix clay. The machines she used now eased her manual artisanal work. She shared that there are more than two dozen families engaged in this line. Most of their open-air outlets are alongside the highway of Madanapalle. You can listen to the podcast:

Madanapalle: Venkata Ramana Amma talks about terracotta pottery

According to Venkata Ramana Amma there are couple of hundred families engaged in the pottery and most of them inherited the artisanship from their parents, and few have learned the skill out of one’s interest. Her father was not born into a family of artisans but he learned from an artisan near Rishi Valley in Madanapalle.

According to Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corporation, a Government of Andhra Pradesh Undertaking, clay products and terracotta has been in existence for a very long time. It says, “Archaeologists have found many terracotta sculptures, which are more than 5,000 years old. The major step in making Pottery involves collecting appropriate refined clay, to get the desired shape. After drying, the clay is placed in a kiln or on the top of combustible material located in a pit, and it is then fired. The temperature of the fire should be around 1,000 °C and during this process, the iron reacts with oxygen which results in a fired body or reddish color. The pottery created with terracotta is used as garden pots or for decorative purposes in many environments, as well as oil lamps, or ovens.”

In making of the terracotta objects, the main raw material is clay, refined clay is used in order to get the desired shape. Once the clay is collected and dried, it is fired in a kiln or on the top of combustible material located in a pit. Black mud and red mud usually sourced locally in Chittoor district. The artisans create a wider range of craft products, and are sold locally and at exhibitions organised by the state government.

Objects of pottery, and terracotta found in the ground by archaeologists is one of the main sources for framing history. “The discovery of characteristics Ganges Valley pottery – the northern black polished ware – and the use of iron, at levels dating to this period (c. 600-321 B.C.) in the northern Deccan sites, would suggest fairly frequent communication with this area,” writes Romila Thapar in A HISTORY OF INDIA Volume One. She mentions that northern black polished ware was technically the finest pottery at this time.

theTelugus.com identifies: visiting or stopping by at an artisan’s workshop to see the works of terracotta and buy for oneself or as a gift to one’s dear one, or at least to see the diverse range of products as one of the top 12 Things to Do in Madanapalle. 

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