Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Crafts of Rajasthan - Kundan and Meenakari

In 1735, the Surana family of jewellers came from Delhi to Jaipur, at the invitation of Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II. They remain one of Jaipur's most renowned jewellers, offering both traditional and modern styles of jewellery. Today they are the 7th generation of jewellers!
A typical combination of meenakari (enamelling) and jadai/ kundan (embedding) work.
What you see above is a restored, traditional piece, called 'Aad' (neck choker). It would require inputs of 5 skilled specialists:
- the designer (chitera)
- the goldsmith (sunar)
- the engraver and enameller (meenakar)
- the gemsetter (jadiya)
- the stringer (patua)

Often, opposite sides of a piece of jewellery will be decorated with Meenakari work and Kundan work respectively. The ornament then can be worn either way.

The art of "kundan" or "jadai", i.e. the art of embedding, was introduced into India by the Mughals. Gold foil is used as the base, and precious stones (diamonds, rubies, emeralds etc) are embedded into it. The glittering effect is fabulous, because the foil enables more light to reflect off and through the stone. Try wearing kundan and standing near candle-light or any kind of lights. It looks brilliant.

Meenakari (enamelling) is the art of decorating a metal surface by fusing colourful mineral substances to it. The technique also came to India from Persia during Mughal times. The salai (pattern) is engraved/carved onto the gold object with a steel stylus, creating walls or grooves that will hold colour. The meenakar then fills colourful enamel powder into the grooves - cobalt oxide for blue, copper oxide for green, etc. They apply each colour seprately and melt the powder in the heat of a furnace, so that it becomes liquid and spreads evenly in the groove.The heat-resistant white is applied first, and red is applied last. Finally, the object is cleaned in a tamarind solution and polished.

In the 16th century, Raja Man Singh of Amber invited master enamellers from the Mughal palace at Lahore to Jaipur. Today Jaipur is the center of Meenakari production. Flower, foliage and animals are the most popular motifs, and traditional Mughal colours like red, green and white are dominant in Jaipur's meenakari work. Meenakari work though is not limited to jewellery. You will find it being used in everything from palace decoration to regular shoe-pieces. These beautiful meenakari elephants are a great option to take home.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The famous blue pottery of Jaipur

Look at these colours! This is Jaipur's famous blue pottery, which came to India from Persia, via Kashmir, in the 14th century. The Mughals also began using them; primarily in the form of tiles to embellish monuments. Through the Mughal influence, it travelled to Jaipur. The rulers of Jaipur were partial to blue-glazed ware. Blue tiles were used in the building of the city of Jaipur, but they disappeared soon after. 

 In the 1960's, Kripal Singh Shekhawat of Jaipur revived the art of blue pottery which had become dead. Kripal Singhji, a trained artist, researched and brought back the methods of creating blue glaze. He created innovative designs and also came up with new shades of green, yellow, brown, black etc. For his tremendous contribution to blue pottery, he was conferred the “Padma Shri” in 1974 and was also honoured with the title “Shilp Guru” by the Government of India in 2002. His family continues the tradition at Kripal Kumbh, and you can purchase pottery from them if you visit Jaipur.

The photo below was taken in a workshop in Sanganer, a crafts village near Jaipur. Sanganer famous for its paper factory, block printing workshops and for some pottery workshops.