Meenakari, in short, is yet another testimony of the colorful heritage, culture, and art of Rajasthan. Though the Meenakari art was originated in Iran, it eventually reached India through Mongols in 16th century. Since then it has become an inseparable part of Indian, and more specifically Rajasthani art and crafts, Jaipur being its national center.
The art had strong patrons amongst the historic Mughal and Rajput rulers of the Rajasthan, it being able to bring lasting brilliance in the intricate royal ornaments and accessories. Their patronage had helped Meenakari in the gaining of fame, it has till date. Even now, the Meenakari jewelries are often associated with regal art.
Nowadays, the traditional artisans of Meenakari are commonly known as Meenakars, who belong to the Kshatriya Sonar caste. They consider Meenakari to be their hereditary craft, and are often reluctant in sharing their knowledge on the same, preferring it to remain in their families. The craft itself is quite intrinsic and involves a complex multi-step process.
In the first stage, a Nacquash prepares a design, which is then proceeded to Swarnkar who creates the base metal. The metal is then sent to a Kalamkar for the engraving of the patterns, on which Meenakar will apply the enamel Meenakari paint. Thus prepared set is then polished, stringed with other materials, and then finally pushed off to the market.
Clearly the process is quite time-consuming and needs several expert hands for perfect results. However, the growing dearth of skilled craftsmen has made it imperative for the remaining ones to wear multiple hats at a time. These artisans are now trying their best to keep the art alive and bring back its eminence as it was during historic times.
As mentioned above, Jaipur is the prominent center for the practice. One can easily find Meenakari jewelries, ornamental bowls, dishes, cutleries, ashtrays, vases, idols, and other show pieces here. A recent advancement that is gaining popularity here is the use of marbles in place of metal. The white of the marbles brilliantly sets off the bright enamel colors of Meenakari, making the artistic pieces more attractive than their metal counterparts.