Santosh Patwa is a third generation Patwa artisan living in Mumbai. He is a part of the Patwa community and has been practicing this craft this childhood. The Patwas, who originated in Rajasthan, later spread across North India, mainly Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. They have a huge presence in Mumbai. In fact, the craft accounts for the livelihoods of thousands living in and around Mumbai. The term “Patwa” is derived from the Hindi word “pat”, meaning silk and the Patwas are those who practice this art. They were traditionally weavers and were engaged in making jewellery by threading beads and stones.
The Patwas believe that they have descended from Vishnu Deota (Deity). According to the legend, there was no priest to conduct the wedding ceremony of Shiva and Parvati. So, a couple emerged from Lord Vishnu’s chest and the male performed the ceremony. Thereafter, Vishnu instructed the couple to create silk thread jewelry for their livelihood and thus was formed the Patwa community
Like many other artisans, Santosh lost his livelihood during the lock down. He had his own little space on the Dadar footpath where he would make and repair jewelry. With that source of income coming to a standstill, he has been reduced to selling vegetables in the day to eke out his living. However, he still carries on his traditional Patwa work with semiprecious stones and beads at night along with his wife Rajrani.
This tribal thread craft has a unique beauty. With a few simple tools Santosh and his wife create strings of beautiful necklaces and rakhis with semi-precious stones which he acquires from Jaipur. The couple demonstrate the technique of binding with special knotting and wrapping with silver and gold threads. In this technique, the craftsmen use multiple silk threads of various colors and entwine them together. These threads are further bound using beads or stones.
In the earlier days, the Patwas used to travel across villages selling their wares and repairing old jewelry. The rakhis, the “pirona” of necklaces, the “nadas” of ghagras and the parandis were a joy to behold. With time, demands and tastes changed. The change also led to the inclusion of other products like torans, mangalsutras, tassles, bangles and anklets. Later as machine-made threads took over, design variations crept into the traditional pear shape. Today, the Patwas cater to a wider and more assorted taste.