The first to describe in detail a community of potters working for the Jagannatha Temple in Puri, eastern India, Temple Potters of Puri explores the role of the temple servant and how it affects the potters’ understanding of their work and of themselves. As a pilgrimage centre of national importance, supported by the patronage of successive regional dynasties and by fervent popular belief, the Jagannatha Temple requires earthenware in great quantities for the creation and distribution of the sacred food that is an integral feature of daily ritual and pilgrimage.
Several hundred potters participate as temple servants in maintaining the temple’s ritual cycle by performing their divinely assigned task. This study observes the potters’ technical prowess, sustained by devotion, but also examines the tensions within their relationships to more powerful temple servants and authorities.
The role of the potter as temple servant is at once glorious, as demonstrated by texts and personal interpretations of the potters’ divinely-appointed service, and pathetic, as shown in the brutality of caste-based hierarchy and cash-based exchange penetrating the modern temple’s daily operations.
The accompanying DVD shows the potters at work and records their skills and products as well as the annual festival that celebrates their role as temple servants.