Bhaand & Cha – An Earthen Story.

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Kolkata’s very own combination for the ultimate adda

A cup of tea in one hand, a stub of cigarette carefully clasped between the index and middle finger and the days’ ‘Ananda Bazar’ dexterously held between the baby finger and the thumb; a set of veteran eyes peering through his thick glasses balancing on his drooping nose and the emblematic Bengali man is well described. Brands of his preferred rollup puff may have changed but the one thing common between him, his friends and the endless sessions of addas discussing politics day in and day out is the earthen petite cup with the steaming hot serving of tea in the left hand.DSCN1280edit

This is how deep the relationship between Kolkatans and the clay pot of tea or as we have learnt to call it the ‘Bhaand’ is. Give a kolkatan this magical tonic in the terracotta pot and he will sell you his soul. 

But, where does this most commonly used and easily discarded commodity come from? What makes them? Where are they made? Well, we at The Beacon have the answers.

<font color=#000000>arranging the bhaands for sun drying
Arranging the bhaands for sun drying

While local shops in and around the city make ‘bhaands’, the bulk of the supply of these cups come from Dakkhindari road in Palpara at the fringe of Lake Town. Everyday around 12 tons of mud is dropped by here which is then distributed among the 100 plus odd ‘bhaand’ makers there.

<font color=#000000>the bhaands being stacked for baking
The bhaands being stacked for baking

The mud is called ‘etel mati’ and is a special form of clay with the right combination of water and soil and is brought here all the way from Canning. Once the clay is split, groups get together and sieve their share to stake out thorns and other elements. Then they a cut into smaller chunks and mixed with water for 3 to 4 hours. A batter is then beaten out of it to give it the perfect texture. After this, the magical process of crafting the perfect cup is executed on the spinning ‘charkhi’. This process goes on for roughly 4 hours.

Hours of experience enables these craftsmen to shape a cup out of the mud in a few seconds. Once this procedure is done with, the clay pots are stacked together in an array and sundried. The next day, these cups are stacked in a circle on the pit and literally set ablaze for 4-5 hours for the perfect stout orange bhaand ready as the Kolkatans adda mate.

We at The Beacon would like to salute these unsung heroes of the city of joy for providing the fuel for the timeless adda sessions in Kolkata. The usage of these ‘Bhaands’ goes way back in the history of the city and Kolkata happens to be the only city to be using these ‘bhaands’ even today. So the next time when you’re having a deep session of adda with your friends and your tea gets over, think twice before you toss it into the dustbin.

We would like to thank Rana Pratap Prajapati and his sons for their contribution

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