Globally white marble has been used for sculptures and monuments from time immemorial. The ever enchanting Taj Mahal is the classic example of marble wonder. The marble is mined from the famous Makrana quarries of Rajasthan for its construction.
Marble is a naturally occurring metamorphic limestone rock. Rajasthan has huge marble reserves, hence the art of marble sculpting flourished here since medieval times. The Rajput rulers encouraged marble handicraft, sculptures and used them to enhance the splendour of their royal palaces and forts. Marble is white in its pure state. But due to impurities like salt, clay, silt and amalgamation of other mineral deposit we find different shades and quality of marble in the market, though pure white is still the most exquisite.
‘Khazano walon ki gali’ in Jaipur is the mecca of marble sculptures. The enchanting idols you might have seen in temples or gigantic marble statues at a traffic signal or a soothing fountain in park might have been sculpted here. As you walk down the lane, you will sight only moortis and more moortis on either side.
I had the privilege to visit a workshop, right behind a showroom and watch artisans meticulously sculpting away gods and goddesses with chisel and hammer.
Marble is break resistant to some extent, easy to work with chisel and hammer giving intricate shapes, designs, facial expressions and folds. It has a natural light reflecting smooth surface which adds opulence. It is long lasting, doesn’t develop cracks and loose its sheen. It is non porous hence safe from water. All these qualities make it ideal for sculpting.
Marble sculptures are expensive, so few can possess. The more affordable are marble handicraft, small artefacts which one can buy and bring some royal opulence to their humble homes. Artefacts like vases, lamps, candle stand, coaster, jewellery box, serving trays, etc are not only decorative but utilitarian as well.
The marble handicraft can be broadly categorised into two; the more intricate inlay work and the colourful meenakari work. The inlay work embeds semi precious stones in artistic patterns etched out in marble.
Meenakari is the art of decorating the surface of marble with floral patterns, miniature figures and animal motifs. Mostly red, green and blue colour is used to paint beautiful floral motifs and miniature figure on marble handicrafts. This craft is popular in Rajasthan. Cobalt oxide is used for blue colour and copper oxide for the green colour. Later on artificial gemstone and coloured glasses are stuck to painted patterns to enhance the beauty and golden colour is often used to add glitter to the articles.
A final touch of polish is done to make the meenakari artwork long lasting, scratch and stain resistant. The popular meenakari handicrafts available are lamps, vases, ganesh with chowki, diyas, pooja chopad and candle stand. My personal favourite is a pair of elephants available in different sizes. It reflects the true spirit of Rajasthan’s glorious past.
Now you may have a glimpse of wonderful collection of marble handicraft at IndicHues.