Walking around the Pink City always leaves behind a whiff of history sharply laced with traditions that the locals are so proud of. The hues and the variety of craft on display instantly bring in the much-needed respite. As the mustache twirls, interesting stories about seven trades establishing a city pours in. Rajasthan believes that seven trades of panigers (goldsmiths), karigar (house construction), kamnigar (workers), nilgar (dyers), shorgar (firecracker), sikligar (swordmaker) or namdagar (rug makers) makes a city.
During the18th century Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh had invited all seven trades to come and settle in Jaipur. He had also summoned the most initial craftsmen from the Manoharpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Once the capital city was established, these Manihar craftsmen also shifted their vocational base from Amer to Jaipur. Maniharon ka Rasta is dotted with countless bangle selling shops managed by the Muslim Manihari women.
“Rajasthan’s craft lacquer bangles also have special mention in the Vedas as taru or palas. During the Mahabharata era, Kauravas plotted to eliminate the Pandavas inside the lac palace.”
Walking by the Hawa Mahal, Maniharon ka Rasta emerged out as glittering dream like ripples. Manihari womenfolk creating customised lacquer bangles with beads, stones, crystal and other embellishments creating an quintessential spot where history meets contemporary. Lac is the scarlet resinous secretion of lac insects, of which the most commonly cultivated species is Kerria lacca. Lac insects usually come to inhabit on palas, ber and kusum trees. Revived by the royals, Maniharon ka Rasta is thronged annually during Holi for Gulaal Gota and such a tradition has been helping in reviving the dying craftsmanship.
Strolling inside those serpentine lanes, one can witness tiny workshops on either side of the streets. Manihari women provide their clientele with custom fit is the biggest marketing lesson learnt in these lanes.
“With a small charcoal stove and a few wooden tools, an oversized lacquer bangle was stacked on a wooden stick. The hatta gives it the desired shape.”
It was heated over hot charcoal till it became soft. The cost of bangles ranged between Rs 200 to Rs 1000 depending upon the number of bangles and the intricate design.
The Manihari woman added a word of caution while handing over the bangles, it is not considered to be auspicious if the bangles break. During the weddings and festivals, locals make a beeline towards Maniharon ka rasta. The plaintive cry of the peacock during the sultry monsoon days, during the Teej and Gangaur festivals even the natives turn into tourists. The inexpensive sparkle in these bangle lanes, tourists and natives throng for the clink. The Royals consider wearing the lac bangles as auspicious. Women who bought the lacquer bangles for special occasions opt for unique color combination.
The most traditional pick Gulaali Chooda was in odd numbers of maroon or red bangles paired with green bangles on either end of the set. Hare Bandon ka choora or pink bangles are picked mainly during Holi. It holds greater religious significance than any other colour. The artisans state that how much patience and time consuming is the art. Though they also make souvenirs like animals, ashtrays covered in lacquer, tourists prefer bangles, finger rings, bichua, baaju band and nose rings. The lanes turn alive in the conversation of these connoisseurs who attempts to pick the unique bejewelled pieces. While the Manihari women sell the bangles in these lanes, their men mainly work at the kilns bringing home raw material. They sit with a sigdi, or a brick oven and make the bangles. The bangles are made by heating the raw material and then rolling it into a pole. The women heat the pole and crop out the bangles. Then, the women heat the bangles to change dimensions and embellish the bangles.
“With patrons from all walks of life, these dingy lanes emerge out an aroma of social culture where the Muslim Manihari women design the chooda for Marwari festival like Gangaur.”
With the diminishing interest in keeping up with the traditional art and crafts, Maniharon ka Rasta definitely creates a new map of confluence.