Naqqashi involves engraving lavish and intricate designs on various metals. Alot of the designs are heavily influenced by Lucknowi culture and usually include floral and celestial patterns.
While earlier the craft was practiced on heavier metals like copper, brass, and silver, today, artisans are opting for metals like aluminum and steel.
Lucknow’s bazaars are host to a variety of Naqqashi products. From daily household items (pots and pans) to more exquisite products such as Paandaan (dish containing ingredients to make paan) and Khaasdaan (dish to store and serve paan to guests), Lucknow’s ethnicity finds its perfect expression in these products.
Lucknow has been home to Naqqashi for centuries. During the time of the Nawabs, artisans used to sell Naqqashi-made products to the British and markets in North India, making it valued and appreciated.
This craft signified one of the turning points for high culture that was found in Lucknow from the 18th century onwards and engravings on metal such as on Paandaans, Khaasdaans and Ughaldaans were the objects that glorified Lucknow’s ethnicity.
Earlier this work of intricate naqqashi was done only on copper, brass and silver but as time evolved, innovation and the need for market growth became necessary, the use of aluminium and steel became a part of this artistic practice.
The Naqqashi process is the same irrespective of the metal it is practiced upon.
Performed by highly skilled craftsmen, the process involves four steps:
Step 1 (Moulding) - The metal raw materials are first molded into the desired shape and size, either by machines or sometimes by hand, depending upon the requirement of the product. The shaped metal is then scraped by powerful machinery in a process known as to expose the lower metal layer.
Step 2 (Naqqashi) - Here, the design is first traced onto the product using a stencil, dies, and a compass. Once it is roughly drawn out, the artisan begins the engraving process on the metal. This is done by hammering a chisel, the tip of which etches out the pattern onto the metal.
Step 3 (Kalai) - Since copper is a reactive metal, it can prove dangerous to human life when it comes in contact with food. In the case of kitchen utensils, they are lined with an inner layer to make them food-safe. However, if a copper utensil is only used to store water or as a decorative item, it need not go through this process.
Step 4 (Buffing & Packing) - The product is washed, cleaned, and, buffed to give it a finished and sleek look. Then it is packed into transparent plastic bags - an integral step that prevents oxidization and rusting of metal over time.