In Molela village, near Udaipur, Rajasthan, a community of traditional potters create handmade wall plaques or votives. Traditionally, these depict gods like the mother goddess Durga and Dev Narayan, a warrior deity presumed to be an incarnation of Vishnu and also celebrated in the Phad painting tradition.
A typical plaque is created by first kneading together locally available clay with donkey dung and husk. This is patted down to form the base and the outlines of the plaque are cut, with the top edge curving like a traditional arch. The deity's form is moulded free-hand as hollow clay relief and sun-dried before firing. This ensures that the plaques are sturdy and will not crack or warp. Some plaques are painted in colours mirrorring the vibrant attire of this arid region, while others are simply painted a rustic terracotta colour.
Molela plaques of deities are much sought after by tribals who travel great distances to source them for their temples. More recently, the craft is being adapted to depict contemporary and rural scenes for use in interior design as well as building facades.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's September 2012 Issue.