It is common knowlwdge that Dharavai is one of the largest slum in the world. It is congested with concrete building interspaced  by shanties. In addition, many are not aware that Dharavi has a thriving economy. Some estimates have put Dharavi to be a $1 billion economy. Shops selling leather goods line the  main road of Dharavi. Dharavi also produces produces textiles and pottery. Kumbharwada is the area where potters have their kilns and homes. Off late  kumbharwada has attracted photographers.

Shops at the entry of kumbharwada sell earthenware. Colourful pots, put up for sale at one such shop, were made for the Navratri festival.  The Navaratri festival is a nine day festival that falls in month of Ashvin of the Hindu calendar. This corresponds to the months of September-October of the modern calendar.

Navratri, Pots, Painted pots, Kumbharwada, Dharavi, Mumbai
Painted pots for Navratri
Navratri, Pots, Painted pots, Kumbharwada, Dharavi, Mumbai
Painted pots for Navaratri

The ladies of the house made out frame more interesting. They added  their most prized possession to the frame!!!

Kunbharwada is a congested cluster of homes and kilns. Most of the residents are from Gujarat. The first persons we came across was not a potter but a priest. He was leaving for Varanasi the next day. That day he obliged and posed for us.

Priest, sadhu, portrait

The Kiln, potter, kumbharwada, Dharavi
The Kiln

The clusters of homes and workshops are interspaced with kilns. Each kiln has a group of homes around it. This was being fired.

Pots and lamps baked the previous day.

There are many shops on the outskirts of kumbharwada, facing the main roads. This lady is carrying pots to the shops for sale through the narrow by-lanes.

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Men at Work…

The process of making earthenware starts with clay. The clay is mixed with water, a very physical job.

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Potters shapes clay on the potters wheel. Motor drove all wheels. There were no traditional potters wheels.

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Men making lamps for the upcoming Diwali festival.

 

Dried lamps ready to go into a kiln.

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A potter firing the kiln.

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Seems like this kiln that had been opened the previous day. Earthenware was ready to be for the market.

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Piggy banks, gulag, golak, kumbharwada
Earthen pot piggy banks

 

Diyas, Kumbharwada, Dharavi,
Diyas (oil Lamps)

 

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The People

Homes and offices, cars and trucks in India have a charms made of lemon and chilis to ward off evil. This house was no exception. This charm had things in addition to lemon and chilis. What was hanging below the lemon was however unusual. Maybe it makes the charm powerful.

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A cat

Our cameras aroused a great interest amongst the residents.

A group of girls admiring their photograph taken by Mr Pankaj Narashana, our guide. All but one, she wanted one more photo!

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Pictures interested the girls more. Gadgets interested the boys.

Photographer, friends
The Photographers

 

These men complained to a Mr Narshana of our group that people only came and photographed and interfered with their work. Mr Narshana asked then if they too wanted to take a photo. He then handed them his camera. This generosity left the photographer and his subject bewildered at the same time thrilled.

The monsoon had receded late and there was heavy rain, luckily only for a few minutes.

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Seems like despite it being a Sunday some had a class …….

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Most did not…

rain, children, Dharavi, kumbharwada
In the rain

About fifty years ago most Indian homes cooled water in earthen pots known as matkas. Refrigerators replaced matkas in almost all homes. Few use traditional lamps in Diwali because electric lights are more practical and versatile. Plastic flower pots have replaced earthenware flowerpots because plastic is light, practical and strudy.

Is the new fondness for use of cooking in earthen pots enough to provide keep the potters business viable? The occupants of kumbharwada don’t  seem to think so. As a result you don’t see many children learning the trade. The children from kumbharwada are like other children from Mumbai. They go to school during the week. They play over the weekend and get wet whenever there is a chance!

 

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