Meenakari work is all about colours and motifs. The craft itself entails coating metal with vibrant colours. Commonly used colours are red, green and blue on silver, gold or other metals. The motifs are mostly nature inspired and exude a brilliant appeal when adorned with enamel.
Meenakari work was introduced to India via the Mughals and the artists thrived under their patronage. As a result, the artists used colours like red, blue, white and green that were favoured by the Mughal kings. These also went on to become the colours that would be favoured by the meenakari artists in Jaipur. Ruby red, which was especially a Mughal favourite ended up dominating the meenakari art during that period and thereafter as well.
The Minkars of Varanasi set themselves apart by adding a tinge of delicate pink to white enamel as a result of which pink is the predominant colour in their motifs. In Lucknow area, blue and green enamel are preferred. Motifs in these colours look resplendent on silver which is the base metal of choice in the region.
On the basis of the colours that are used in the meenakari work, it can be categorised into:
Ek Rang Khula
The entire engraved area is covered by a single transparent enamel while the gold outlines stand out. This kind of meenakari work is not as vibrant as the others but here, the richness from gold stands out owing to a design that is less busy with colours.
As the name suggests, this kind of meenakari work comprises of five colours namely, red, green, white, light blue and dark blue.
Gulabi stands for pink. True to its name, pink is the dominant colour in this form which is widely practised in Varanasi.
While there is a variation in the colours that are used in meenakari work, motifs by themselves are mainly floral in all the regions - four to seven petal flowers surrounded by leaves and vines. The flowers are mostly red, green or pink and look striking against the gold outline. Fauna also makes an occasional appearance in meenakari work in the form of peacocks and elephants. Minkars painstakingly pore over the metal for hours no end to achieve the fine shading in the plume of a peacock. The end result is a marvellous design that can leave you short of words of praise.
As meenakari work continues to remain a popular gifting option and collectible, the craftsmen are slowly experimenting with newer motifs for a contemporary appeal. The colours however remain unchanged, maintaining the essence of traditional meenakari work.
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