Continuing an age old tradition, Salmora potters carrying boat loads of earthen pots have started arriving on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra in Lakhimpur district from Majuli to do business.
The potters known as Kumars in local parlance, are bringing Tekelis, a traditional earthen pots used mainly to prepare curd during the annual harvesting festival of Magh Bihu, have anchored their vessels in the Inland Waterway port of Dhunaguri in Lakhimpur district since late December.
Salmora potters from in Majuli will stay here till late January before returning home with profits and provisions. The potter’s choice for Dhunagurighat in Lakhimpur district bears significance as they target a particular ethnic community for their trade.
The areas around Dhunagurighat have a large presence of Deori community who prepares ethnic rice beer liquor called Syuji in this post-harvest period. The finest quality Salmora Tekelies, are required for the purpose.
From the river port, the potters carry the Tekelies to the nearby every Deori villages for sale. Usually they leave the Tekelies to the regular customers and wait for the harvest to be over. As the reaping of the paddy is completed, the potters visit the villages again to collect the harvested paddy and start returning home to Majuli.
In a word it is a barter system that has been going on since a long time. In between, the potters also sell the earthen pots to local traders, who sell them in weekly markets in different Lakhimpur. The potters stay for months waiting for the paddy from the Deori villages.
For the potters, a whole year is spent to prepare these earthen pots. They have to dig forty-fifty feet deep inside the ground to extract the particular sticky black clay required for pottery during February-March.
The extracted clay is kept five feet underground for some months so that it undergoes certain chemical process. After that they are taken out, dried in sun and prepared to mould into different sizes and shapes for various sizes.
The pots required for Syuji should be bigger than the usual Tekelies meant for keeping milk or curd. The burning of the earthen pots begins during the month of August-September and they are readied for transportation by the month of November.