Pottery tradition in India


  • Evidence of pottery has been found in the early settlements of Mehargarhfrom the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, it is a cultural art that is still practiced extensively in India. Pottery plays an important role in studying culture and reconstructing the past.
  • Historically with distinct culture, the style of pottery changed. It reflects the social, economic and environmental conditions a culture thrived in, which helps the archaeologists and historians in understanding our past. It holds significant value in understanding cultures where script was either absent or remains un-deciphered.


Evolution of pottery making in India

Neolithic age:

First reference of pottery in this age. It is hand-made pottery but during the later period foot-wheel is also used.

Neolithic Pottery Making

Chalcolithic age:

It is marked by the occurrence of distinct pottery cultures. Such as- Black and red-ware pottery, black-on-red ware and Ochre colored pottery.

Black and red-ware pottery

Harappan civilization:

Pottery traditions that existed during this time include- Polished Ware Pottery with rough surface, Burial Pottery of Harappa, Ochre colored pottery (OCP), Black-grey burnished ware, Black-on-red ware, Grey-ware and Painted grey-ware

Harappan pottery 1
Harrapan Pottrery 2

Vedic age:

Pottery traditions that existed during this time include- Painted Grey-ware (PGW), Northern Black Polished ware (NBPW), megalithic pottery found in Kerala.

vedic age pottery

Mauryan period:

  • Use of the pottery wheel became universal.
  • The pottery associated with the Mauryan period consists of many types of ware.
  • But the most highly developed technique is seen in a special type of pottery known as the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP), which was the hallmark of the preceding and early Mauryan periods.

Gupta period:

Gupta pottery remains found at Ahichchhatra, Rajgarh, Hastinapur and Bashar afford an outstanding proof of the excellence of pottery. The most distinctive class of pottery of this period is the red ware.

red ware

Kushan period:

The Kushan cultural phase in Bengal and North Indian sites brought a new horizon in ceramic craft. The characteristic pottery of this phase is marked by a unique red polished ware with stamped design along with a large number of dull or sturdy red ware.

kushana period pottery

Important elements of pottery analysis

  1. The three key elements of pottery analysis are fabric, form and decoration.
  2. The form or morphology of a pot consists of four main elements: its base, body, neck and rim.
  3. Fabric is the outer physical surface of the pottery which is a combination of factors such as clay used, degraissant mixed, firing technique (i.e. oxidation and reduction) etc
  4. Another aspect of the physical form of pottery is decoration and surface treatment.