The Potters of the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai

During our time in Mumbai we visited the largest slum in Asia, Dharavi. This was an amazing place, which largely dispelled our preconceptions of what a slum would be like. There a more in-depth look at the slum on the blog that Lauren and I are writing together whilst in India:

Potters make up a whole caste in India, known as the Prajapati or the Kumhar. Kumbh means earthen pot, stemming from the sanskrit, "kumbhakar" which means earthen pot-maker. The Kumhar were were some of the first settlers in Dharavi from Gujurat and still make up a significant slice of the population there. We only got to see a small section of the industry, but it was enough to get a sense of it.
This was the area around the potter community.

Pots proudly painted on the walls.

This lady was preparing clay for throwing.

Lots of pots, laying out to dry. You could tell they had been thrown really fast.
As you can see, they were arranged a bit higgldy-piggldy.
Notice the roughness of some of these. Many had chunks out of the rim or bits of debris stuck in them.
I think these were destined to be lids.

Dog, protecting essential ingredients.

Dog, taking it easy.

They dig clay from outside the city of Mumbai and mix it here, by foot.

They also use molds, mostly for bigger forms.

These looked a bit precarious to me.

These were two piece pots, intended to hold candles and be used in religious ceremonies.

Water pots. Great shape.

Some of those lids, ready for firing.

Big pancheon style pots.

Flower pots! Made in the molds pictured above.

The store-front.

Below is a chai cup that I picked up, couldn't help myself. It felt very pleasing in the palm. Chai is a moorish tea that is at once sweet, spicy and milky. Even though I normally don't take sugar in my tea, the chai here really hits the spot. There are people selling it everywhere, on every street corner, on every train etc, but sadly I have only been served it in a glass or cardboard cup. In the past everyone used clay cups and treated them as disposable items; throwing them in the gutter after finishing the tea. They are not fired to a high temperature, so would break down and pass back into the earth. What struck me most about the cup was how rough the bottom was, not even undercut to prevent chipping. 

To end, two mischievous youths who insisted we took pictures of them. The one on the left was practicing his smooth wink. Lauren took all of the pictures you see, as I was shooting film (yet to be developed), so muchos thanks go to her.