Indian Terracotta Statues: A Colorful Cultural and Religious Tradition

Most terracotta pieces were and are still created by local potters in regions throughout India with each locale having a unique style, distinct designs and individual content. They have long been a very significant part of rural life in India where they represent the wishes and beliefs of village inhabitants for a better life. Essentially they “…stand for the longings and aspirations of the village folk who still retain the age-old mystic belief that guided the life of the people more than five thousand years ago.” (Pottery India) They grace individual home altars, are commonly displayed in the outskirts of many villages in places of worship, and are housed inside the temple and sometimes placed outside the structure underneath a pipal or mango tree. Most antique and many vintage figures were completely handmade, but many were mold-made with the individual pieces later hand luted together and then painted.  Although these potters were usually male, women often created their own unique figures of gods for both ritualistic worship and decorative purposes to embellish their homes. There are also secular terracotta figurines that portray important historical figures, soldiers, policemen, fauna and flora with some being used as toys for children.. Most pieces were and are still created by local potters in regions throughout India with each locale having a unique style, distinct designs, and individual content.

Although having strong rural roots, the terracotta tradition of votive statues and other religious items has become an integral part of the life of Indians of all socio-economic levels. India has long been long renowned for its imagination and creativity in the terracotta arts, and, although the art has been practiced for thousands of years there, it has not begun to disappear or suffer. On the contrary, images are displayed in every Indian household, they are in high demand, they are exported throughout the world, and, although there are strong and well-known state and city centers with fine reputations, there are other smaller centers producing fine contemporary artwork made from unique local clays that may differ from others in both color and the sensibilities and skills of the local artist. (Indiazone).

As most contemporary items have been mass-produced for decades, genuine antiques and vintage pieces produced in the early and even to the middle of the 20th have become more difficult to locate and are now viewed as somewhat rare and highly desirable antique or vintage collectibles. (India Home Craft)

Web Sources

Dolls of India, “Terracotta Art – From the Earth to the Soul,”

India Home Craft, “Terracotta”,

India Mirror, Pottery, “Terracotta and Paper Mache,”


IndiaNetzone, “Terracotta Art in India,”

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