The Maru potters of Molela near Udaipur in Rajasthan, are famous for their terracotta plaques depicting votive images. Produced mainly for their tribal customers, these are given for the shrines of their tribal gods. The Bhil tribals are the main customers of the potters, travelling hundreds of kilometers from the borders of Madhya Pradesh to purchase these plaques.
Simple hand forming techniques are involved in making these plaques. A slab is made with the distinctive dome-shaped top; the edges are raised to form the rim of the slab. The figures are formed with the fingers and must be hollow, so they do not burst in the kiln. These figures are completed by adding accessories like jewellery on them, made of tiny balls of clay. The plaques are dried for nine days. The firing is done in a temporary kiln.
About fifteen years ago one could still buy the plaques made by these potters in Delhi and some major cities of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. No longer economically viable, these potters do not come to the major cities anymore.
Recently these potters have also been noticed by architects and decorators and have gained much prominence. Their art and craft is being used to decorate the walls of urban Indian homes, farmhouses and corporate offices. This exposure has also helped them to interact with the Western market and they have demonstrated their production techniques abroad. Today these plaques are mostly available in Delhi during the festive months, at Handicraft fairs.
A trip to Molela would involve a two-night stop at Jaipur, one night each way, as Udaipur is nearly seven hundred kilometers away from Delhi