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Meenakari art is also known as the art of enameling of metals. It is considered to be one of the Royal arts of India. It is the art of ornamenting and enameling metal surfaces and decorating them with beautiful designs or Kundan stones. Meenakari is the feminine form of Minoo in Persian. Mina refers to the Azure (blue) color of heaven. Blue being the prominent one other color like red, yellow, green and pink are also used in Meenakari art. The meenakari craftsmen are known as the meenakars.
History of Meenakari:
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Meenakari has its deep roots originated in Persia. Meenakari is a Persian art that travelled to Rajasthan. French tourist, Jean Chardin, who toured Iran during the Safavid rule, made a reference to an enamel work of Isfahan, which comprised a pattern of birds and animals on a floral background in light blue, green, yellow and red. It was the Iranian craftsmen of Sasanied era invented this art and Mongols spread it to India and other countries. This Royal art was then familiarized by Mughals for their love towards intricate Mughal jewellery. It got familiarized in Rajasthan, somewhere around the 16th century by Raja Man Singh (Amber) who called for Meenakars from the court of the Mughals based in Lahore. It was because of him, these Meenakars got settled in Jaipur. Meenakars belong to the Sonar or Sohail caste of Kshatriyas and identify themselves as the name Meenakar or Verma. Now Jaipur is the heart of Meenakari art in India.
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The process of making Meenakari artifact remains the same till date. It goes through the same line of craftsmen as it used to go through hundreds of years ago. The process starts with the designer (naquash), and passed on to goldsmith (sonar). It is then sent to the engraver (kalamkar) who engraves the design, and the enamelist (meenakar) applies the color. The artifact is then polished by the polisher (ghotnawala) and the stone-setter (jadia) sets the stones as per the design, and finally it goes to the stringer (patua) for the final touches.
It’s all About the Colours:
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The vibrant eye catchy colors used in meenakari are the metal oxides mixed with powdered glass. It is said that the oxide content in itself controls the shade of color that will be obtained. The mixtures in their raw form do not show the actual colors instantly, but only when the product is fired in the furnace. Enamel colors are bought and brought from either Amritsar, Punjab or from Germany or France. Meenakari art is primarily divided into two categories. The single color enameling is known as the ‘Ek Rang Khula’ in this the artisan uses one vivid color to give the Meenakari jewellery a gorgeous color effect along with the metal. Multi-color enamellings are known as the ‘Panchrangi Meena’. In the ‘Panchrangi Meena’, the artisan uses more than one vibrant hue to create vivid patterns on the jewellery. The use of myriad colors makes the piece intricate and spectacular! Craftsmen can do multi-colored enamellings with up to 5 different colors, giving it the named ‘Panchrangi’.
The Modern Twist:
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The art of enameling has evolved over the years. Jaipur being the hub of Meenakari artisans, the art is practiced in few places of the country too. Today, Meenakari is not only limited to jewellery now days, but used on home décor items, jewellery boxes, key chains and many more lifestyle products! There are many more articles which are created by the Meenakari artisans. These make good gift items suiting every pocket. So next time you want to gift someone you can try these trays, trinket boxes jewellery boxes, pooja thalis, pens or key chains, pencil holders etc.