ABSTRACT

Kumbhakar (pot maker), Kumar, or colloquially Kumor, is the potter caste of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Around the mid-18th century, the Kumors of Nadia began to specialise in moulding life-like miniature clay models showing the everyday lives of different groups, castes and tribes of rural Bengal (Chakravarti 1985). This craft received considerable colonial patronage and distinction through an elaborate network of colonial exhibitions in different parts of Europe, the proliferation of Western art education in the colony and the role of individual connoisseurs and collectors (Mukharji 1888). The craft and its practitioners achieved a rare celebrity during and following this period, based on the making of realistic models. In this chapter, I look at how the changing nature of the craft led to significant changes in the status and the identity of the Kumbhakar mritshilpis (clay-modeller).