Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The arts and crafts of India are as varied as its culture, languages and regions. Here I bring you one of the metal crafts known as Meenakari.

Meenakari is the Indian art of decorating metal with enamel. It is delicate, intricate and quite colourful. It is a most difficult and intricate process of decorating the surfaces of the metals like gold, silver copper etc, by attaching, or fusing pieces made of coloured glass powders. Various mineral oxides are used for obtaining different colours. Various precious and semi precious stones are also powdered and used for colouring. Enamel can be transparent, opaque or translucent.

It is believed that this art form originated in Persia. The Mughal rulers of Persia, who invaded India, introduced this technique in India. The credit of introducing this art in Rajasthan goes to Raja Man Singh of Amber. He is stated to have brought skilled artisans from Lahore and established them in Jaipur. Since then Jaipur has become the main center for this type of work and today, the Meenakari work done by the artisans of Jaipur is known for its intricate designs, beauty and creativity. In India enameling of gold is done in Jaipur, Delhi and Banaras, silver enameling in Nathdwara, Bikaner and Udaipur and glass enameling in Pratapgharh.

Meenakari is done on various articles like jewelry-bangles, necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, anklets, brooches, furniture like chairs, small cupboards, jewelry boxes, key chains, trays, dinner sets, photo frames and other items.

It is said that, before introduction of the claw settings for holding the gems and other stones, stones were set in ornaments using Kundan work-that is embedding stones in lac and covering with highly refined gold and gold foil. Meenakari was often used to cover the back side of such pieces. So both sides looked beautiful.

The base metals used for Meenakari work are gold, silver and copper. These days white metal is also used as it is cheaper and quite affordable. Gold is the most preferred one since any colour can be applied easily on it. But only few colours like blue yellow and green can be applied on silver.

The Process:

This art form requires high degrees of skill, creativity and lots of patience. The artists who do this work are known as “Meenakars”. The metal article or the ornamental piece to be enameled is fixed on a lac stick. The designs are drawn on it by the artisans known as “Chiteriaas”. Motifs may include, flowers, leaves, vines, birds, animals like elephants, fishes etc.

The engravers known as “Gharias” engrave the outlines of the design. This creates grooves or pits for holding the colours, in which enamel is applied. The depth of the grooves when filled with different colours, determines the play of light. This also enhances the beauty of the colours by the play of light and shade of the light rays touching the enamelled surface. Then it is thoroughly cleaned and enamel dust of required colour is applied, and fired at high temperatures. The heat of the furnace melts the colour which spreads evenly. Each colour is fixed in this manner till the entire article I filled with colours. The colour which is most heat resistant is filled first and so on as the piece is fired a number of times. White or pink colour  is supposed to be the most resistant and hence applied first and red the least so filled in first and last. The ornament is placed on mica plate to avoid direct contact with fire.

After cooling it, it is polished with "Sohan” or Corundum or agate and again fired. It is then treated with acid derived from tamarind or lemon. The entire piece can be covered in enamel or just in parts. Gems can also be set in the jewelry as required and the setter is known as Kundansaaz " or "Jadiya".

Some Types of Meenakari:
  • ·         Ek Rang khula Meena- Single transparent colour is used for covering the entire engraved area, exposing gold outlines.
  • ·         Panch Rangi Meena-Multi coloured enameling, where five colours white, light blue, dark blue, green and red are used.
There are so many other types. My knowledge is very limited.

Black, white, blue-dark and light, green-light dark, red and yellow are some of the most used colours. They can be transparent or opaque. 

Here are some pictures of the Meenakari

This is a Meenakari Bangle done on ordinary metal with white and black colours. 
These are the danglers in white and black done on silver. I bought them to match my bangles above. But I could not get on gold coloured material. I am searching for a matching neck piece or even pendent so I can create my own neck piece with beads.
This is a brooch-multi coloured peacock. with stones.
This is a tray, made of white metal which is now popular as it is cheap and looks like silver.
See the way the meenakari work has been done.
See the beautiful colours.
Blue, green, red and yellow
This is the work done on the handles of the tray.
On the edge of the tray in the picture below.
See the way the small design has been done in multicolours.
Yellow red and green-flower, leaves and the vine design.
Combination of blue, red and green.
See the intricate design with blue, red yellow and green.
This is the Pooja thali, used for offerings to God. See the peacock design.

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. 

Hope you have liked this.


Lakshmi said...

yes I like them..they are beautiful

Sailaja said...

Thank you Lakshmiji

Sarojini said...

Nice post very informative

Anonymous said...

Very informative post

Collin123 said...

These Meenakari works need highly skilled work and takes hours to make. But unfortunatley the Meenakari art is dying a slow death because these artisans are not getting enough pay for survival.

I personally know 2 Meenakars from Northern Rajasthan who were going to give up on the trade due to lack of money. That is why we have launched a venture Craftsvilla that intends to preserve Indian arts and we help Meenakars sell their Meenakari artworks directly online.