Use of Terracotta Plates in Kashmir
There is an age old relation between the clay and man. The simplest medium easily available has been the soft clay. Clay well kneaded with a proportioned amount of water is easily malleable. From times immemorial man has used this medium to express himself. Clay when baked takes a new form, called the terracotta. The terracotta in India has had a long history. Terracotta figures are shaped in all forms, in the round and in relief illustrating a variety of themes. The potter who used to make terracottas held an important position in society. Almost in every mohalla there was a terracotta centre. In olden days the potter served some particular homes only and he used to make waterpots, milkpots, vessels for cooking food and in return he received grains and money. Even now in the far flung areas of Kashmir, this tradition continues.
Although metallic utensils have replaced the terracotta vessels, still it is a flourishing craft. Pottery has a great role to play in man's life. Apart from its domestic and kitchen use, it is used in ceremonies. No ceremony is complete without the use of pottery. In Kashmir, pottery has an indispensable role owing to its use in both domestic and ritualistic purposes.
Shallow plate having ring like base is called Tabich
and the shallow dish is called Toak in Kashmiri. The difference is in the size; the big one with a thick
rim and a ring like base is called Tabich (plural-Tabchih) and the smaller one with the thin rim
and without ring like base is called Toak (plural-Taek). These plates were used in ceremonies
where there was abundant use of terracotta material.
Devagon is a prefunction requirement performed before
the thread ceremony and marriage ceremony. A small yajna is performed and for this ceremony, terracotta
plates have a great importance, so to say seven plates filled with special preparations are offered to seven
goddesses. In Hindu mythology, number seven has a great significance. Seven goddesses called
Saptmatrikas are (I) Varahi, (2) Maheshwari, (3) Vaishnavi, (4) Chamunda, (5) Kumari, (6) Brahmani, (7)
Indrani. They are the important tantric goddesses
Seven plates filled with sweet rice puddings (kheer)
are decorated with walnuts, coloured sacred threads, cooked vegetable (Haend) and kidney beans. These
plates (Tabchih) are called Divitsi Tabchih (plates belonging to goddesses). After the yajna is over these
are given to the nearest relatives as blessing gifts.