• Potters’ craft is believed to be one of the oldest and most important traditional crafts of India.
  • It has come down to our times from pre-historic age. Indian pottery is said to be “the truest to nature, in the directness and simplicity of its forms, their adoption to use, and purest in art, of all its homely and sumptuary handicrafts”. Indeed, no feature of Indian art has such a long tradition of artistic achievements as the pottery.
  • It is a marked fact that through a continuous process of development in techniques and artistic expressions, the pottery craft in India achieved an appreciable degree of perfection e.g. pottery industry in different periods brought about some improvements in innovative techniques and creative quality of the fine output upon the previous period.

Neolithic Age

  • We find the first reference of pottery in this age. Naturally it is hand-made pottery but during the later period footwheel is also used.


  • Unglazed/unburnished that is having rough surface
  • Handmade coarse grey pottery
  • Material – clay mixed with mica and sand
  • Pottery is devoid of any painting
  • In many cases twisted rice husk cords were impressed into wet clay for decoration
  • Found throughout India including the South. Burzahom-coarse grey pottery
  • Included black-burnished ware, greyware and matpressed ware.

Chalcolithic Age

  • Chalcolithic Era, the first metal age, is marked by the occurrence of distinct cultures in various parts of our country namely – Ahar culture in South Eastern Rajasthan, Malwa culture in Western MP, Jorwe culture in Western Maharashtra, etc.
  • People of this age used different kinds of pottery.
    • Black-and-red-ware Pottery: Black and red ware seems to have been widely used. Cultures like Ahar Banas showed the presence of Black and Red ware pottery with white linear designs.
    • Black-on-red ware: Jorwe ware is painted black-onred and has a matt surface treated with a wash.
    • Ochre Coloured Pottery (OCP): OCP people are regarded as the junior contemporaries of Harappa.
  • This pottery is identified with the Copper Hoard Culture that was found in upper Ganga Valley and Ganga Yamuna doab area.
    • The colour of the pottery ranges from orange to red.
    • The period covered by the OCP culture is roughly placed between 2000 BC and 1500 BC.
    • Major sites are- Jodhpura (Rajasthan), Attranjikhera (UP)
    • Ganeshwar, located near Khetri copper mines, was initially believed to have OCP but researches have confuted this.
Black-and-red-ware Pottery

Harappan Civilization

Polished Ware Pottery with rough surface

  • Both polished and unpolished type of pottery existed
  • Pottery generally has a red surface and is wheel thrown although handmade ones too exist
  • Polished wares were well fired.
  • Most of the pottery is polychrome meaning more than two colours are used to colour the pottery.
  • Most of the pottery is utilitarian. Such potteries usually have flat bases
  • Geometrical design along with paintings depicting flora and fauna are observed
  • Perforated pottery was also found may be used for straining liquor.
  • Pottery throughout the civilization was uniform (mass thrown) revealing some form of control and leaving less space of individual creativity
  • Presence of luxurious pottery obtained from certain sites reveals economic stratification in the society
1. Mature Harappa

Burial Pottery of Harappa

  • Burnished and painted pottery
  • Burial pottery was specially and distinctly made
  • Reveals the Harappan belief in life after death
  • Presence or absence of this pottery in the grave goods reflected social stratification
2. Late Harappa
  • Ochre Colored Pottery (OCP) – As we know the late Harappan cultures (1900BC – 1200BC) were primarily chalcolithic. Some specific chalcolithic sites show the elements of late Harappan (like use of burnt bricks, etc). These sites have OCP.
  • Black-grey burnished ware produced on slow wheel – Found in Swat Valley. This resembles the pottery from north Iranian plateau. Black-on-red painted and wheel turned pottery – Also found in Swat Valley. This shows a connection that Swat Valley was associated with Harappa.
  • Grey-ware and Painted Grey Ware, generally associated with Vedic people have been found in conjunction with some late Harappan pottery. It has less intricate designs as compared to the early and mature periods suggesting a dilution of the rich culture.

Vedic Era-PGW

  • The Vedic Era saw the emergence of Painted Grey Ware(PGW) Culture.
  • The Rig Vedic sites have PGW but iron objects and cereals are absent. Hence it is considered a pre-iron phase of PGW. On the other hand, the Later Vedic sites are considered ironphase of PGW.
  • This pottery is an Iron Age pottery found in Gangetic plain and Ghaggar – Hakra valley, lasting from roughly 1200 BC – 600 BC. Mathura was the largest PGW site.
    • Characterized by a style of fine, grey pottery painted with geometric patterns in black.
    • Are confined to few geographical locations, namely – Punjab, Haryana and upper Ganga Valley. This culture is associated with village and town settlements (but without large cities)
Painted Grey WarePGW Pottery

Later Vedic Era-NBPW

  • The later Vedic people were acquainted with 4 types of pottery – Black-and-red ware, black-slipped ware, painted grey ware and red ware.

End of Later Vedic Era-NBPW

  • Towards the very end of Later Vedic Age around 6th century BC, we see the emergence of 2nd phase of urbanization(1st being Indus Valley Civilization). This era marked the beginning of the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW).
  • Map showing areas where NBPW pottery was found
    • Glossy, shining type pottery.
    • Made of fine fabric and served as tableware for richer class. Considered deluxe potteryonly found with the elites revealing societal Brahmanical stratification which hegemony was. a result of
    • This pottery continued to exist during the Mahajanapada era.
    • Found in Ahichatra, Hastinapur (both in UP), Navdatoli (Madhya Pradesh)
    • Classified into two groups- bichrome and monochrome
    • Monochrome pottery has a fine and thin fabric . Potted on fast wheel and have astrikingly lustrous surface. 90% of this type is jet black, brownish black and bluish black and 10% have colours like pink, golden, brown among others.
    • Bichrome pottery is found less. It shows all the features of monochrome except that it shows combination of two colours. A Bichrome pottery with two colours
NBPW pottery

Megalithic Era

  • This culture is placed between- 3rd Century BC to 1st Century AD.
  • Megaliths refers to monuments constructed of big (mega) stones (lith).
  • This culture is particularly known for its large stone graves. In the South this age is characterized by the use of iron.
  • Megalithic Pottery found in Kerala
  • Well baked and durable Wheel thrown
  • Bulk of these are plain however, a sherd from Koldihawa reveals black painting on the surface.
  • It has been excavated throughout India but majorly from the South. Mostly in Vindhyas.
  • They were used as grave goods revealing belief in life after death.
Megalithic Era Pottery

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