For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Terracotta art and Culture

Exploring the forgotten culture 
03:00 AM Jul 11, 2024 IST | Irfan Naveed
terracotta art and culture
Book Cover

The first book on terracotta art and culture of Jammu and Kashmir have recently hit the book marts, the book has been authored by Iqbal Ahmad a senior archaeologist and an author. It is first time when any local archaeologist has lifted the lid from this century’s old hidden culture and attempted to explore it.


It is in place to mention here that the remains of ancient wonderful terracotta settlement sites and artifacts have been found at  several places across Jammu and Kashmir and in the recent past    evidences of this culture have come into light at few other places of this land, for example on left banks of Nallah Lidder in Lidder valley of the Anantnag district and at Ambaran in Akhnoor area of Jammu province.


These are the significant terracotta pavement sites, which not only speak about earliest terracotta settlements but of its advanced art and culture as well. The  pavements are formed of terracotta tiles which are baked  and  are laid  out in concentric circle  with a motif of full blown lotus in the centre,  the tiles are of various shapes,  sizes and patterns  and are laid in a circular shape which forms a, circular shaped pavement.  The tiles on its obverses are stamped over in variety of motifs of human beings, animals, birds and other flora and fauna designs with kharoshti numerals and letters.  These artifacts reveal the traces of some advanced culture which according to experts has flourished here during the early centuries of christen era . This culture in archaeological terms has been named as the early terracotta art and culture of Jammu and Kashmir which according to archaeologists have evolved here from the time of Indo Scythian in 1st century BC  and extended in the same form up to 8th century AD to the period of Karkotas and in a glazed style up to Mughal Period.


The book titled, “Terracotta Art and Culture of Jammu and Kashmir” is basically the documentation of this culture where under the terracotta sites, pavements, tiles and other artifacts related to this culture have been deciphered, described and documented.


The author writes, ‘The terracotta heads  and motifs devised on the tiles in Hellenistic style speak of some advanced   civilization  and attempts have been made to identify the people and tribes who have set this wonderful tradition here. Besides, the logic behind setting of these highly advanced terracotta pavements at such abandoned places is also being  ascertained.’


People curious to know about this terracotta art and culture shall find this book very interesting.  This book shall really open up new doors of information for the students and researchers of ancient history, culture and archaeology.


On the other hand, one can see and observe the glory of this terracotta art in various museums of the country. In the archaeological gallery of SPS Museum Srinagar, there has been kept a designated section for Kashmir terracotta, which showcase the representative series of this wonderful heritage. But here as well no replica of any of the tile pavement has been designed yet.


The author writes, “In fact it looks that this art is, undoubtedly, a highly professional art that strives on themes apart from religion.  The art involved not only the preparation of stamped molded bricks but miniature sculptures too.”

Iqbal Ahmad in this book has made several observations about this culture and have also raised very interesting questions for the working archaeologists. He says, “No doubt partly the terracotta heritage has been recovered and preserved but still there are several questions related with this heritage which have not been satisfactorily answered by the archaeologists.”

I do not know if any material analysis of these tiles has ever been taken. Since I verified most of the excavation and trial dig reports of these sites, but I could not find any material analysis of the exhumed materials recorded in any such report. The major quires which require the serious attention of the scholars and researchers is:

  1. What has been the actual purpose of laying of such a marvelous terracotta floors and pavements on such abandoned places?
  2. Who were the people, the tribes who have laid these pavements.
  3. The last but not the least, what has been the ancient manufacturing and baking techniques and technology used in making of these tiles and sculptures.’

No doubt the substantial evidence of terracotta culture has been acquired by the excavations and trial digs but to be honest the questions raised by the author of this book, have got a point. These quarries will get solved only when our concerned institutions produce and encourage the efficient and genuine researchers and archaeologists who shall undertake the detailed and scientific study of these sites and its materials. The history, archaeology and Buddhist studies departments of Jammu and Kashmir Universities shall  involve their respective research scholars to study terracotta sites and their exhumed artifacts.

It is in place to mention here that decades have passed since terracotta settlement sites were explored and investigated by trial digs, but the systematic excavations are yet to be undertaken at number of these sites. Over the decades of their neglect, several of terracotta finds spot sites have also disappeared. These sites needs to be re-identified, excavated and then mapped and the archaeological materials recovered from these sites through trial digs needs to be identified, documented and properly studied. The exposed tranches refilled with earth shall be left open for the tourists and at major terracotta find spots terracotta site museums should be set up