Sonaullah Kumha, 75 , who started as a potter in his teenage to carry forward the tradition of his forefathers, how¬ever couldn’t draw his sons into the work. He is helped out by his daughter in making clay utensils and has been witness to the down¬turn of the trade here at Kral Sangri- which got its name as it was inhabited largely by Krals (potters)- in the outskirts of the Srinagar city near Nishat.
Kumhar started at the age of 8 and is among the few remaining potters here and recalls working with hundreds of others including his father during “those good old days.”
He is helped out by his daughter Tasleema to prepare the clay for making utensils and blames lack of returns and the government restrictions on the extraction of soil for the trade remaining restricted to few people here.
“The last generation of few potters are now in their seventies and with the younger generation showing little interest many people are shifting to other odd jobs,” Kumhar said. “None of my three children are interested in the profession citing poor financial returns. They did not even try to learn it,” he said.
In Kralsangri most of the people have switched from pottery to other odd jobs. The number of potters has dwindled due to dis¬inclination among the youth towards the work and preference of people over copper and steel utensils over the earthenware has also hit the trade.
“There was a good demand for earthenware items but we hardly get any customers now,” said Kumhar.
He said earlier pottery used to fetch decent living for families. “We never took up any other work. Today pottery is dying,” he said. “From making of drums (Tumakh Nari) to inner earthenware (Kundal) of fire pot, our trade has fallen to making of few utensils,” he said. “ Earthenware now has no market.”
Kumhar blamed restrictions on extraction of clay for extinction of the trade. “After the restrictions on extraction of clay, it’s becoming harder to continue the trade,” said Kumhar. A lorry load of soil costs around Rs 20- 30,000.
“In absence of the customer potential and market value most of the families associated with the pottery industry in the valley have shifted to other jobs
From Kralsangri to Kundal and Chrar Budgam to Bandipora families associated with the pot¬tery have mostly left the trade and have opted for other jobs,’’ he said.