Surahis have a history that goes back hundreds of years to their beginning in Arabia and are still being made. To get an idea of contemporary surahis, click on “images for surahi” in your search engine. These are mostly decorative works though, a world apart from that of earthenware surahis where the acts of kindness by Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists kept the surahis filled with water for passers thus promoting social cohesion in communities across the Indian subcontinent all the way to northern Thailand.
I found no photographs anywhere similar to my Burmese water pots, but I found a sketch of a pot on p. 213 of Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s Burmese Crafts, Past and Present that looks quite like them. The caption for the sketch reads, “a water goglet, Papun. Late 19th century.” The sketch is on pp. 400-401, vol 1, pt 2 of Scott and Hardiman’s 1901 Gazateer of Upper Burma and the Shan States.
My pots were new in 1961, but given the tendency of potters to keep making the same forms over long periods of time, it seems possible that my pots were from Papun in the Kayin state. Papun was a noted pottery center in the late 19th century and was still active in 1961 when I left Burma.
Goglet was a new term for me, but it is not a misspelling of goblet as I first thought. Merriam Webster’s unabridged online dictionary, the only one to have the word, defines goglet as “a long-necked water vessel usually of porous earthenware that is used especially in India.” In other words, a goglet is another word for surahi. A reader left a comment on the Merriam Webster site saying that the word was in common usage in India in the 1950s and 60s. I am, however, sticking with surahi.
– Ed Conyngham, July 6, 2022