Thewa is a 400 year old art of creating gold filigree on a coloured molten glass base. The patterns in this slender latticework of gold are inspired from nature and mythology. This inbred art is exclusively practiced only by the Sonis or goldsmiths of Nathulal Soni family.

Q What is Thewa art?

Thewa is a 400 year old art of creating gold filigree on a coloured molten glass base.

Q What are the uses of Thewa art?

The initial usage of Thewa art was to adorn chests and boxes gifted to royalty. Today the craftsmen’ expertise have extended to photo frames, mirrors, cufflinks, brooches, trays, plates and personal accessories like rings and necklaces which are adorned by men and women alike.

Q Is Meenakari associated with Thewa art?

Both of them are jewelry art, however they’re not the same.

Q Thewa art is from which place?

Mandsaur is a village in state of Madhya Pradesh, India

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The initial usage of Thewa art was to adorn chests and boxes gifted to royalty. Today the craftsmen’ expertise have extended to photo frames, mirrors, cufflinks, brooches, trays, plates and personal accessories like rings and necklaces which are adorned by men and women alike.


The skyrocketing prices of gold have made this art appealing to people who look for pocket-friendly value and design.Though the amount of gold used is minimal, the eventual product gives an impression of a gold-rich heavily ornamented piece. A 4′ X 6’ photo frame requires only 5-6 grams of gold, but it gives the illusion of a gold feast to the eyes. The entire procedure is meticulously carried out in daylight only.
The beauty of Thewa also lies in the fact that it is pure technique which gives birth to it. The raw materials are simple and few. The amount of work and skill that goes into handcrafting each piece adds immense value to it. There is no other form of art which sculpts out day to day life, battles, legends and hunting expeditions in meticulous detail on such a small surface.
The Sonis are very particular about the craft honed by their ancestors. This art is passed on only to  the men of the family. The fear of skill getting diluted with marriage into other families is what keeps them from divulging to the daughters. The training starts at the early age of ten for the boys.
Thewa art has won nine National Awards since 1966 and has gathered fame around the world. It is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. A few 250 year old pieces are said to be a part of the Queen Elizabeth’s collection.The Indian Government has issued a stamp in 2002 featuring a splendid piece of Thewa art on a plate.
These honours are trivial before the dedication of the artists who engage in this art which demands enormous precision. Shri Giresh Raj Soni, a descendent, explains the immeasurable patience that this art bestows, in these words ”I’ve lost the ability to ever get angry.

Myths & Legends:


The craft originated in a small estate called Deolia in the district of Chittorgarh (Rajasthan). Prince Bika of Mewar, the ruler, shifted his capital to Pratapgarh, 16 kms to the east, due to scarcity of water. Subsequently, a community of artisans came to settle in this region too. In 1707, a goldsmith amongst these artisans by the name of Nathu Lal Sonewal designed this style of gold-work. It soon caught the fancy of kings and princes and Maharaja Sumant Singh patronized this art in 1765 and granted a jagir (land) to the family of Nathu Lal Sonewal. The Maharaja conferred the title of Rajsoni (Royal goldsmith) on him. His descendents have internalised this craft since then.
It was soon noticed by the British women during the Victorian times. They bought Thewa jewellery and also carried it back with them to their homeland. Thewa was recognised by European jewellery historians for its finesse and skill.
The Soni family later shifted to Mandsaur, a bigger city with more opportunities for their art.


A 23 karat gold metal sheet is traced with patterns which are mythological, religious or depicting daily events. Artisan also take inspiration from minituare paintings. Certain motifs reflect events like hunting scenes of the kings and patrons, with the hunting party, animals and birds amidst delicate foliage. This is called a shikargah. The depictions of royalty proudly portrays Maharana Pratap, his famous horse Chetak,the palanquins, elephants and rest of the extravagance in minute details.The mythological plethora involves popular subjects such as Srinathji, a form of Krishna installed at Nathdwara, Radha-Krishna, Ram parivar, Hanuman, Mahadev and the mother goddesses.

Apart from the traditional designs, Thewa has also adapted to the recent times. It has blended many other techniques like Meenakari, diamond setting along with various materials like beads and threads to bring about a contemporary flavour. Thewa in jewellery is more in vogue today than other traditional products and the favoured patterns are floral trellises, peacocks and elephants


The skill of making Thewa was kept a family secret. It was ardently reserved only to the men of the Nathu lal Soni family over generations.The daughters and son-in-laws too are kept out of the circle to avoid the skill from spreading out. Even researchers were not given details of the exact process. For this reason the art is not able to reach up to the widespread demands.

Introduction Process:

Thewa art takes its form atop a hard bed of purified lac.Gold sheets, placed over this bed, are cut out into fine traceries laden with stories.

Raw Materials:

Raw materials for this art is few and simple.The purified lac base, on which the sheets are spread is called a ‘chapadi’. The metal sheets used are of silver or 23 karat gold. The various other raw materials are belgian glass, beads, threads and stones.

Tools & Tech:

Small sized tools are used for this delicate art like ‘Hummaney’ (forsep), ‘Katya’ (cutter) and ‘Tankale’ (to cut out the jaali). A wooden plank is the base for spreading out the lac. Other fine chisels and sharp tools are also used to work on the entire piece and assemble it like Chugga (pliers to bend wire), Ambur (pliers to pull wire), Jaintee-wire gauge, Gulsam (divider) and Vena (used to make dots). A small gas lamp is kept burning to heat the tips of the tools.




The gold is smothered to milimetere-thin sheets and placed on the lac bed. The lac is then heated slightly such that the sheet sinks a little into the bed and is held tighter. The gold sheet is then worked upon by cutting out the designs and patterns.
Once this is done, the filigree is laid out in a frame of silver wire called ‘vaada’ to lessen the risk of damage. The silver wire frame used in this task is pre-assembled on brass dies and soldered to precision. This framework is then very carefully set upon a sheet of mica using forceps. This enables the two metals(wire and sheet) to be soldered easily. After the soldering, the mica sheet is removed.
This piece is placed over a sheet of coloured Belgian glass. The filigree and the glass is bonded with a technique only known to the craftsmen. The framework is enclosed in a solid silver casing called ‘chandi ki dibiya’ with a thin silver foil at the bottom to add to the lustre.


High precision is needed in cutting out the designs on the sheets. The tiniest error will lead to the entire sheet being wasted.All such discarded pattern sheets and cut outs are melted again and prepared for the fresh work.

Cluster Name: Mandsaur - Mandsaur


Mandsaur is considered to have been evolved from 'Marhsaur', originating from 'Marh' and 'Saur', or Dasaur, two of the villages which merged in the town. The town was known as Dashpur in ancient times.

District / State
Mandsaur - Mandsaur / Madhya Pradesh
13.4 lakhs (2011)
Hindi, English
Best time to visit
Stay at
Many options available
How to reach
Has Railway station & situated on Ajmer-Lebad (Indore) NH-79 as well as Mhow-Neemuch SH-31 4 Lane road.
Local travel
Auto Rickshaws, Taxis
Must eat
Dal Bafla, Kachori


Mandsaur was earlier called Marhsaur. The name was derived from names of two places 'Marh' and 'Saur', which might have been merged to form this town. It was also said to be called Dashapura, when it was ruled by the Dasharnas during the Mahabharata period. Bandhuvarma was one of the rulers of this dynasty, who appears in an inscription at Mandsaur. It is said that the silk workers of Mandsaur had constructed a Sun temple here, it was repaired by Bandhuvarma in Samvat 493 (436 CE).
The Risthal stone slab inscription discovered in 1983 has brought to light the Aulikara dynasty, which succeeded the Dashapura dynasty. Two monolithic pillars were erected in a small village called Sondani (4 km from Mandsaur) by a king called Yashodharman of this dynasty in 528 AD. These described his exploits and achievements. The Indian Archaeology Department records that these were excavated from the original site in Sondani.
Before Independence in 1947, Mandsaur was a part of the princely state of Gwalior. It lent its name to the treaty made with the Holkar Maharaja of Indore, which helped put an end to the Third Anglo-Maratha War and the Pindari War in 1818. Later as it neared the 20th century, it became a thriving centre for the Malwa opium trade.


Mandsaur District forms the northern projection of Madhya Pradesh from its western Division, the Ujjain Commissioner's Division. It lies between the parallels of latitude 230 45' 50" North and 250 2' 55" North, and between the meridians of longitude 740 42' 30" East and 750 50' 20" East.
The District is bound by two Districts namely Neemuch in the North-West and Ratlam District of Madhya Pradesh in the South. The District is an average sized district of Madhya Pradesh. It extends for about 142 km. from North to South and 124 km. from East to West. The total area is 5521 sq. km.


The climate of this district is generally dry except under South-West Monsoons. Year may be divided into four seasons. The cold season is from December to February. This is followed by the hot season from March to the middle of June. Thereafter the South West monsoon season starts and continues till about the middle of September. In District there is a rapid increase in temperatures after February. May is generally the hottest month with the mean daily maximum temperature at 39.80 C and the mean daily minimum at 25.40 C. Days are intensely hot in summer and hot dust-laden winds which below during this season add to the discomfort. On individual days in the summer session and in June before the onset of the monsoon the day temperatures often go up above 450 C. January is the coldest month with the mean daily maximum temperature of 35.00 C and mean daily minimum of 9.30 C.
The average annual rainfall in the District is 786.6 mm. The rainfall in the Districts in the region around Sitamau - Mandsaur - Malhargarh in general increases in the northern part of the District from the West towards the East.


Mandsaur is a developed town with thriving industries of slate pencil, flour and opium. It is equipped with all the basic facilities like schools and colleges (both govt. and private), medical facilities, electricity etc. Mandsaur district falls under the Ganga basin and Chambal River sub-basins. The river is situated in a broad, flat, shallow valley with low gradient because the Chambal has reached the base level of erosion. Vertical erosion has reached and lateral erosion is taking place. Other tributaries of Chambal River are Retam, Shivna and Chhoti Kali Sindh. Mandsaur district has limited irrigation facilities. Only 28.64% of net sown area is irrigated and rest of the area is rain-fed. Surface water irrigation in the district is only 8.0 % of the net sown area. Groundwater is the main source of water in the district.


The architecture of Mandsaur is that of any bustling town. It has caught up to its brick and concrete counterparts in both dwellings and commercial buildings. It is steeped in archaeological eminence. The homes of the craftsmen are built around their crafts. The humble brick and tile dwellings have their work spaces right at the entrance.


Malvi is the language mostly spoken in Mandsaur. It is a mix of Rajasthani and Hindi. The place is rich in archaeological and cultural history. Nevertheless, Mandsaur is popularly known for its temple of Lord Pashupatinath, located on the bank of River Shivna. Its idol has a parallel only in Nepal.


Most of the people in Mandsaur are Hindus. There are, however, sizeable minorities of Muslims, Jains, Christians and Buddhists. There is also a small Sikh population. Hindi language is the main language. Dialects of the language, such as Bundelkhandi, Malwi and Chhattisgarhi are found to be spoken too. Agriculture is the main occupation. The others include trading and crafts. Many people from the tribal background are nowadays found to be working as workers in factories, as shopkeepers or as street hawkers.
Majority of the male community wears dhotis along with Bandi (a kind of jacket) and a turban. Most of their clothes are very colorful. The women wear Lehenga (long skirt) and Choli (blouse) with an Odhni or Lugra (cloth wrapped around their head and waists). They also wear saris.

Famous For:

Mandsaur is famous for the Pashupatinath temple with its eight-faced Shivling. Hoards of devotees flock to the temple for the 'Mela' or fair held in this temple. The water in the Shivna River swells every monsoon and touches the bottom of the Shivling. This is termed 'Jalaabhishek' (Offerings of water) and is celebrated with great reverence. The Nalcha Mata temple, 3kms from Pashupatinath temple, is another site of religious importance.
A famous historical spot here is the Mandsaur fort. It was built during the Dashapur dynasty and is also called the Dashpur fort.
Mandsaur is famous for its Opium production. The slate pencil industry is a prospering business here. Culinarily, Mandsaur is famous for its distinctive Dal Baafla(a dish comprising of lentils and wheat) and Kachori (fried hollow flour patties with lentil stuffing).


List of craftsmen.

Documentation by:

Process Reference:

Cluster Reference:

(18.03.3012) Interview - Local Crafsmen & People (11.07.3012) (11.07.3012)