Meenakari is a Persian art of colouring the surface of metals by fusing brilliant colours. The art was brought to Varanasi by Persian enamellists around early 17th century during the Mughal era.
Mina is the feminine form of “Minoo” in Persian, meaning heaven. Mina refers to the azure colour of heaven. Introduced in Rajasthan by Raja Mansingh of Amer, this Persian craft was originally used to create designs on the back of traditional polki jewellery. However, as the craft flourished under Mughal patronage, it became a design of its own, and led to something called reversible jewellery.One of the most complex crafts, the process of Meenakari remains the same as it was 500 years ago! Even today, a Meenakari artefact goes through the same assembly line of craftsmen as it used to go through hundreds of years ago. The process starts with the designer (naquash), then goes to the goldsmith (sonar). It is then passed on to the engraver (kalamkar) who engraves the design, then the enamelist (meenakar) applies the colour.Meenakari was an expression of Royalty and fierce integrity of the Rajput’s and high-class society, embellished with high-end diamonds, kundans, and various stones. The artefact then goes to the polisher (ghotnawala), then the stone-setter (jadia), and finally it goes to the stringer (patua) for the final touches.Meenakari shows the best on gold as it has a natural sheen that sets off the colours of Meenakari beautifully. It also holds the enamel better and adds shine to it.Once the colour is embedded in the jewellery and it is polished, the piece is cleaned with a bit of lemon and tamarind so that it can retain its colour. The colours used to create this enamel art are metal oxides, mixed with a dash of powdered glass. These mixtures do not reveal the actual colours until the product is fired in the furnace.The craft reached its peak in Iran during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. In the twentieth century Iranian artisans specializing in meenakari were invited to other regions to assist with training local craftsmen. In India Rajasthan and Gujarat are most famous for their Mīnākārī artifacts and jewelry.