by Himakshi Thakuriya
The Hira Community, who are the traditional pottery makers of Nalbari district have suffered immensely due to the devastating recent flood in the district.
As the waters have dried up and the community have restarted to pick up threads of life together found that almost the entire work of the year have been either swept away or damaged beyond repair as their works are clay pottery.
They make various utensils for home and all of them have been damaged. “There is hardly anything left. We had three days of water and that was enough to damage all our works of the year” said Pranita Das, herself a potter.
Pottery making is the tradition from the ancestors of Hira community. Hira potters are distributed mainly in Goalpara, Kamrup, Barpeta and Nalbari districts of lower Assam.
“We are making pottery from generations and we don’t have other earning source. This is the only source for earning bread and butter. Our children also choose the same profession as us as they can’t continue their higher studies. Hunger for continuing the livelihood stops them for further study. This is the story of each and every family of our society. Thus we carry forward our lives, but this year the flood has ruined everything. We have no idea what we will do in the upcoming days for our survival,” said Pranita Das, a Hira woman who feeds her family from the money which she earns by selling the pottery in market.
In Assam, there are two groups of people who have been traditionally making pottery from generations. The one who manufactures pots with bare hands is known as the Hiras, whereas the other who uses manufacturing wheels are called as Kumars.
Hirapara is an area located at Nalbari district, and it is located 13 KM towards the west from the Nalbari town and around 70 KM from the state capital Dispur by road. Pottery making tradition is the main attraction of this area and they have been making pottery since their ancestors. It is the only source of income of their livelihood and only some counted people have another source of income.
“We need a particular type of clay for pottery making and our male members go to Diparbil during the month of ‘Phagun-chot’(Monsoon season) for gathering it. We save some amount of our earnings for gathering the clay and we make pottery from only that clay throughout the whole year. But this year flood has devastated everything. The raw materials for pottery making, the raw potteries (which were not put into the fire), food stock, animals all got submerged underwater. Now we have nothing,” Pranita said while tears roll down her cheeks.
Nayan, son of Pranita Das, a BA first-year student, is now severely suffering from pneumonia. Some days ago he fainted at home. His family has suffered greatly due to flood, they don’t have a single penny to admit him in a hospital or to visit a doctor. Reporters, who were there for covering the news, bought him to hospital.
The Hirapara area consists of 45 to 50 families. Excluding the land where they live or stay, they also don’t have any agricultural land. The people of Hira community of this area generally live in small houses made up of mud or brick walls. Only a few people who have other income have a concrete house and the rest of them stay in Kutcha houses.
The whole process of pottery making is women related work and male of their family takes it out for selling in the market. In one sale, they get 500/600 rupees. Nowadays, due to the increasing level of plastic usage, sale of potteries are decreasing.
The girl child of Hira family learns all techniques of pottery making activities from her mother and other senior female members.
Thus the Hira community is surviving under a threatening economic condition. Economic revival is possible only through government support.