At a time when the king pushed all of Imphal valley to convert to Hinduism from the 1700s onwards, a small group of Meiteis chose to become social castaways in order to continue practicing their indigenous Sanamahi faith. An even smaller group of their descendants live in Andro village today, and still practice their prized heritage craft, the rare pottery form of Charai Taba.
Also termed ‘coil pottery,’ the form of the pot transpires, as the potter makes and stacks loop after loop of clay (charais) of different sizes, melding them together one by one, till the resulting object finally takes the curvaceous the shape of a pot. A Charai Taba potter works without any kind of motor, and uses her wheel more for precision sculpting, rather than giving the pot form. Interestingly, this is an art form practiced only by married women, and generally passed on to young brides by their mother-in-law.
Over the centuries, the animist Meiteis of Andro have been using their Charai Taba pots for saving seeds, drinking water, cooking and storing Yu, the local sacred alcoholic rice brew, which is an important part of nearly every Sanamahi ritual, right from the birth ceremony to marriage and death; the links between Yu, pottery, culture and religion run deep, which is why even in this dry state, the people here are allowed to continue brewing their Yu.
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