Behind the Scenes – A Walk-Through to the Making of Indian Meenakari Crafts That Are in Demand Worldwide

Rajasthan has a special place in my heart. I used to live in Jaipur and Udaipur for months during my travels. I have experienced its beauty in the pleasant days of March as well as searing heat times of June. I have walked in the streets in extreme winters to feel the slow pace of the city. I have seen my favorite colors in sunsets during my desert safaris.

I have spent my evenings in the forts and palaces imagining –“How was the life of the people who have built and lived in these opulent palaces?”

Camel Rides – Leaving us with stories of sunsets

 

My cool friend with 2 coolest new friends from Rajasthan… during one of our trips 🙂

One thing that has always charmed me whenever I have looked at centuries’ old paintings, architectures and crafts of this royal world is the Meenakari art-work.

Amber Fort with Meenakari work

Profoundly rich in appeal and extraordinary in craftsmanship, it is believed that this art was brought to India by Raja Man Singh of Amber in the beginning of 16th century. He met few known meenakars in Lahore at the Mughal Palace and they were invited to Jaipur.  Since then the meenakar generations have been settled in Jaipur.

The authentic Meenakari work is very expensive because it involves a very tedious process and is mostly done on gold and silver metals.

But during 19th and 20th centuries minakars and the art travelled to different regions of India and every region created a different version of meenakari depending on the taste and spending capacity of the people.

This blog discusses the 2 most popular forms of Meenakari-work that has highly influenced and charmed the global market.

Version 1 – Jadau Meenakari-Work

♦ Born in: Lahore, Pakistan

♦ Practised in: Mostly Jaipur, India

Believe me! This process is a complicated one. It goes through many expert hands before it reaches the completion.

It starts with a goldsmith (Sonar) and designer (Nacquash) who create the initial design. They cast metal (gold, silver, aluminum) into jewelry pieces, artifacts like elephant, camel or maybe a vase using traditional casting techniques.

Casting and shaping the metal

Then it goes to engravers (Kalamkars) who engrave the metal and etch flowers, peacocks, elephants, and fish on the surface. This engraved metal is filled with the most heat-resistant enameled color and is kept in a furnace at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius.

Filling the etchings with enameled colors

 

Heating the enameled colors at 850 degrees

The heated metal is filled with the 2nd most heat-resistant color and is heated again. This process continues till all the etchings are filled with colors.

Filling the 2nd color after heating

# The heat is required to fuse and harden the colors uniformly all-over the groove.

Next, it goes to the polisher (Ghotnawala) who brings natural luster to the metal piece by rubbing and cleaning it with tamarind and lime.

After this (Kundansaaz) – the stone setter intricately fills the etched motifs with colorful and quality stones. Finally (Jadia) – the stringer gives the piece final touches.

Setting the stones

Interesting facts that make this art an exceptional one!

  1. This work requires a team of expert craftsmen. No single person can do Meenakari single-handedly. Each step requires a different and very unique skill set that is difficult to find in 1 person.
  2. Each color is individually fired. The most heat-resistant colors are filled first and they are re-fired with each added color.
  3. Meenakari, is undoubtedly one of the most complicated art-forms but still is done using very basic hand-tools. Few to mention are salai (an etching tool), mortar and pestle, kiln, kalam (a tool used to apply colors) etc.
  4. The colors used in meenakari work do not reveal the actual colors until the piece is fired in the furnace.

The marvels of Meenakari art

This dazzling work has greatly influenced the bridal jewelry collection of India as well as the USA and Europe in recent years.

Version 2 – Meenakari-Painting

Born in: Lucknow, India

Practised in: Jaipur & Varanasi, India

Artisan casts metal (mostly aluminum and white metal) into figurines of elephants, horses, Lord Ganesha or into décor crafts like vases, clocks etc. The shaped metal is then enameled with the base color and is left to dry. Mostly dark-blues, greens and whites are used for enameling.

Then, the dried enameled metal is given a rough and very light outlining of motifs to be painted. The artisan then paints the facial or other details on the metal craft with the help of a paint-brush.

Artisan giving details to the elephant figurine

Simultaneously  cones are prepared from plastic sheets that are filled with different acrylic paints. Using these colorful cones, the artisan then decorates the art-piece with buds and blooms.

Decorating the elephant using cone colors

# The characteristic of this art is lotus blooms and buds’ motifs that are mostly done in a combination of pink, green and white.

Again the figurine is left to dry for at least 24 hours and finally it is cleaned using a moist-cloth.

The final polished elephant figurine

This version of meenakari art is mostly seen in auspicious and animal figurines that are considered lucky to place at homes. Meenakari crafts are also becoming a very thoughtful and precious gifting option for those who like to give something unique and timeless to their special-ones.

I am glad SouvNear has it all!

Understanding the global demand of Meenakaripainting, we have tied up with artisans and NGOs who craft authentic artifacts in this art-form. They might speak different languages; they might not have the exposure to reach the global market but they are dedicated to win your order by offering the best quality at the best price.

 

 

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