Clay utensils in Coastal Karnataka

Clay is probably one of the oldest materials used by mankind. I find it quite exciting that just a generation ago my maternal grandparents used clay utensils for their daily needs. My grandfather even had his favorite clay plate. I am not sure whether they had clay glasses for drinking beverages at that time in Udupi, however in North India I still find shops selling tea or lassi (a sweet or salted Yogurt or buttermilk summer drink, often served with a glob of white butter) in earthen utensils was kulhads.

A copper gurkae (Goor-kay) seated into the bathroom corne
A copper gurkae (Gur-kay) seated into the bathroom corner

Large pots called Gurkae’s (Gur-Kay) were fitted into the corner of the bathroom (Later replaced by either copper or aluminum and now by electric water heaters) which could be fired from outside the house for heating  bath water for the whole family. In spite of not having a cold winter like some other parts of the country, the high humidity and heat in coastal areas necessitates a bath before bedtime as constant sweating in the daytime makes your whole body sticky.  The order of things in the evening, at least in a protestant Christian household would be…  bathe, have dinner and then have a family singing of hymns and prayer before bed.

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I like researching stuff from the old days. People were thrifty, hard working and lived in an environment friendly healthy way. If we don’t preserve the old ways, we might end up (most of us already have) at the mercy of governments & corporations for basics such as air, water, food and all essentials which we could acquire for free with a bit of hard work.

These then are the types of clay items used in my grandparents days, at least the ones that I am aware of. I will update the list as and when I get more information. The names are in the Tulu language.

Gurkae         :

Bisale            :

Vodu              :

Kara               :

Other places outside Udupi

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Water pot     : Called a matka in Hindi, I saw it in Bombay as a kid (we had one at home) and still see it  around in Delhi where it is in regular use. It is available with a metal tap, or mostly no tap at all. Pots for water storage are not seasoned and the pores are open. Due to this water seeps out slowly and evaporates making the water cold in the summers. This is the same principle in making pot in pot refrigerators. In Delhi, I have seen people store their pots on their roof filled with sand. I think this might be to sterilize it in the sun, or maybe some other superstitious belief. When I move houses, I often see abandoned pots left behind as they have become useless due to use with hard water (pores get blocked). It feel it is not disposed off because it is considered a bad omen to break the pot. In the dry North Indian summers, the water cools almost like that of a refrigerator and you can find piaos’ where the charitable (also hoping to rack up some good karma) place communal drinking water pots where travelers can get a drink. Rickshaw pullers often use these as it saves them the hassle of carrying water in a bottle which soon gets hot.

Cup or glass :

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