Longpi Pottery – Manipur’s black & beautiful stone craft 

Stately black, smooth and exquisitely formed, Manipur’s Longpi pottery is an instant eye-catcher. More popularly known as Manipur’s Black Pottery, the craft is practiced by the Tangkhul peoples of Ukhrul, specifically in Longpi – a general reference to 2 villages in the area – Longpi Kajui and Longpi Khullen.  

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Pottery as a tradition has mythical connotations in Manipur – the first piece of pottery is believed to have been made by the goddess Panthoibi, one of the most revered dieities of the Tangkhul people, during the creation of Manipur itself. Using black pottery is therefore considered auspicious during festivals celebrating the goddess.  

The most interesting part of Longpi pottery is that it’s not made using a potter’s wheel. Here’s how it’s made: 

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First a mixture of clay and powdered Serpentinite (a type of rock rich in minerals like lizardite, antigorite and chrysolite) is thoroughly kneaded.

Serpentine rock. PC: http://www.mindat.org

Then a large slab is rolled out and shaped into a cylinder; placed on a circular board, which, in turn, is placed on a stool. The potter then moves around the stool, shaping and forming the cylinder of clay into a pot. When making other shapes, the potter carefully rolls the clay dough out into long, thick strings which are then shaped into things like bowls, plates or mugs.  

PC: http://www.theearthissue.com

The moulded clay pieces are then fired in a kiln for about 5-9 hours and then cooled. The final finishing of the pieces is done by polishing them with the leaves of the locally-grown Chiro Na (pasania pachyphylla) a large evergreen tree.  

Besides the novelty of not being made on a potter’s wheel, Longpi pottery is also different from other pottery traditions in the country in that it is practiced by both men and women!  

Relatively lesser known till a few years ago, Longpi pottery is now gaining ground as part of everyday use crockery as well as memorable gifts. 

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