Friday, October 8, 2010


The Garba
Well, this is Navratri time and I bring to my readers the story about a Garba Pot’s journey.

This real story is about a family of potters from Kumbarwada at Dharavi Labour Camp. Kanji is a potter by profession and lives in Kumbarwada with his wife Tina and four children – Dharmesh, Neha, Payal and Manthan.

Kanji, Tina and their kids

While he is an expert potter, Kanji has no facilities of his own and everything is used on rent. He works for 4-5 hours in a day while making 200 to 250 pieces. Not that he works everyday as he is not in the best of health.
Clay all set to be moulded

Tina is a terrific worker who packs a huge number of hours in her day. She works at my home as a cook in the mornings while she does work at other places too. Her afternoons and late evenings are spent getting the Garba ready for Navratri.

Kanji at work
Their work began three months ago. Clay is brought from wholesalers by the truck. The cost varies from Rs. 2000 to 2500 from time to time. It needs to be cleaned up thoroughly and mixed into a smooth paste.

Kanji rents an electric wheel (a day’s rent is Rs 150) and manages to make about 300 pots on a given day. The pots are dried in shade for a couple of days till they become firm. The round-bottomed pots are softly tapped into the right shape for the garba and then holes are made. There is no particular number of holes on these. They just use their discretion. What they need to ensure is that the pots don’t break when they work on them and also the holes should be very neat without any residual clay in-between.

Again these pots are left to dry in the sun over 3-4 days. They hope to have strong sunlight on the morning the pots are baked in the kiln.

Drying pots
All the work is done by the whole family and a few neighbours. The whole community gets together to work on each other’s projects. About 10-12 people work as one to stack the pots in the kiln and the process takes about half an hour. We are talking about 300 pots that are not quite dry yet.
The kiln, bhatti or choola

The kiln belongs to their neighbour Jaggubhai who generally rents it out between Rs 150 and 250 depending on the season. But Kanji is a good neighbour and friend and therefore gets to use it for free.

A thick layer of cotton is made inside the kiln. Then bricks are laid in a square and a thin sheet of metal (patra) is laid over this. The pots – 300 of them – are stacked over this layer after layer. Another layer of metal is placed over this and that is covered by the more cotton. They place a few more sheets of metal all around to generate heat evenly.

The pot is ready for Stage II
Cotton balls are lit and placed all around the kiln around the packed pots with more at the mouth of the kiln. The kiln, bhatti or choola gets ready over the next couple of hours, the rest of the cotton slowly catching fire. This happens from 2 to 4 pm.
Manthan's handiwork

Then the oil rags are fed into the kiln in stages to keep the heat going. Iron rods are used to push the rags inside. This is from 4 to 10 pm when an even heat is maintained while the pots bake. One can imagine the kind of heat that is produced here. After 10 o’clock, the fire is allowed to cool down and fizzle out.

The pots are not touched until the next morning and then too they are handled only with denim gloves are they are still hot to the touch. The kiln is shared by a few families and is emptied if someone else needs it urgently. Otherwise, they take the whole day to remove the pots in a leisurely fashion.

Stage II of the Garba is the decoration. The baked pots are cooled and then washed thoroughly. They are dried both inside and outside their home as there are so many of them.

Day 2 sees the pots painted white. Chunna (lime) and gond (an edible substance used while making laddus) are mixed with water and made into a whitewash and the pots are coated with this. Tina and her four kids do this work in harmony. The best part is that Tina is very adamant that all her children are to be educated. Dharmesh is in FYJC, Neha in Std IX and other two are also in school. They study well too.

Day 3 is to use oil paint on the white coat. Red is the colour that holds best and is timeless. Other colours such as green, yellow, blue and more are also used. The pots are kept aside after this for drying yet again.

Tina and her creation
Day 4 is for sticking design on the pots. Mother and children work on this too. Tina uses her own imagination to make the designs. She uses neither a pre-sketched design nor a tracing paper. Everything is done freehand. They use pearl beads, zari threads, ropes, mirrors, chamki and more to stick on the pots. The overall effect needs to be seen to be believed. Tina gets the raw material for the designs from Surat where her sister lives. She uses about Rs. 3000 worth of these materials for the 700 pots she has decorated this season.

Then comes the final touch on Day 5. Tina prepares cones – similar to mehendi cones – and fills them with colour and a quick and strong fix gum. She gives the final touches to the decorated Garbas with these colours. This gets set in about an hour. Now the Garba is ready for sale.

Going to the market
Tina and family have already sold about 300 decorated pots in different sizes from home for a total cost of Rs 15000. They have about 400 pots packed away for sale during Navratri. While she has been working into the wee hours of the night over the past week, not once have I heard the little lady complain nor has she asked for a day off.

Going to the fair
The ever-grinning Tina and her gang are to set off to the fair at Kathiawadi Chowk at Malad for the grand Navratra market. All the hard work has not fazed them one bit. What I admire most about this family is that the determined lady of the house ensures that the kids study, they don’t do any labour outside home while what work they do at home is so creative that it holds this family so well together.  I sincerely pray that they sell all the pots that they have made for excellent prices. The prices do tend to ebb and flow and don’t remain very steady.

I will bring you this story in Part II of this series.


  1. That was a lovely journey you took us through!!!

    Btw, if you like my post, please vote for it at Indiblogger


  2. I never knew the story behind the journey of these pots was so fascinating!!!
    Beauty comes from their hard work and the love that they put in , I guess!!
    A very beautiful post...

  3. A beautiful post! I had a first hand running commentary from you about part 1 now Waiting for the part 2.
    Keep it up. God bless Tina's entire family & all the people in this business of the Garba pot.

  4. mummy, i think this is one of the best blogs you've written. its so beautiful. The creation, what went behind it and the ppl who created it. lovely

  5. very very nice account of the garba making with details about the family bonding. lovely pots!
    pls tell tina that i love the pots she makes!

  6. Dear Sundari,very interesting to read about the garba manufacturing by the whole family & they deserve to be encouraged & i am very happy that you are doing that & this blog might help them a lot.i pray that all their gabhas get sold with good have written very well with the details of the process of making them.very happy that Tina educates them as well as training them with the great pottery an ancient art j rao.

  7. beautiful creation. Best wishes to Tina & her family.God bless.
    Sun Thank you very much for this blog eagarly awaiting part 2.

  8. Beautiful. I agree with all the comments.

  9. Such a beautiful post Sundari. This is the true meaning of Garba. Loved it!

  10. Amazing work by some amazingly talented and hardworking people. Thanks for writing about them!

    1. Hi Beloo, thank you for stopping by and posting a comment :)

    2. The journey was explained very nicely i know tina and her family personally ☺️ and thank you on behalf of them and also just cant wait for the part 2 once again thank you ❤️

  11. The journey of this struggling family was explained so thoughtfully.I,komal jethwa know tina and her family personally ☺️ and i feel so proud after reading this even after years ,i just want to thank you on behalf of them for such good words thank you so much ��