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Molela, Rajasthan, India, is famous for its terra cotta votives. They are acknowledged as possessing a universal sensibility for their artistry and as anthropologically important religio-cultural statements. In the form of plaques and statues, these icons are made from the red clay of the village. Added donkey dung and rice husks enhance the material’s pliability and temper the clay. The dried clay artifacts are stacked in a mound or in a walled pit and laced with locally available dung, grass, chaff, etc. Set afire, the objects are bisqued in several hours. They harden and become waterproof when taken to a low, red heat.
Plaques are often painted in bright colors made from vegetable dyes mixed with gum from the babul tree. These bright colors are easier to see in the bright sun typical of this area and may be representative of the primary authority of the deities depicted. The fabrication process is all done by hand. Women usually prepare the clay, and men create and paint the images. Local gods and goddess are the usual subjects depicted on the plaques, making the home or temple shrine a common place for them to be seen.
In particular, the plaques are the theme of this Web exhibit. Robert F. Bussabarger [opens new window], who identified each god and goddess, generously donated them. The residents of the village of Molela, Rajasthan, near Udaipur, India who made these objects are potters when not being herdsmen. The clay is difficult to work with during the monsoons so they tend to their animals during this part of the year.
Annotated Dharmaraj plaque [opens new window]
Bussabarger, Robert F., and Betty Robins. The Everyday Art of India. New York: Dover Publishing, 1968.
"Votive Terracottas of Molela, Rajasthan." Craft and Artisans of India. 19 Apr 2007.
Text prepared by Audrey Gayou and Robert Bussabarger
Museum of Anthropology, 100 Swallow Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-1440
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