Chamba Rumal: Lesser-known art of Himalayan embroidery by royalties Art / Handicraft

For most of us, a handkerchief is a mere accessory of daily use. But in Chamba, a mountainous town in Himachal Pradesh, it is an integral part of the local heritage, history, and art. The art of making Chamba Rumal (means handkerchief) dates back to the 17th century. Back then, the Himalayan embroidery was done on two to four square feet piece of cloth by queens and other royal ladies of Chamba for auspicious ceremonies.

The royal ladies with deft fingers used to embroider with an impeccable finish on muslin or plain cotton. Once patronised by the local rulers, the Chamba Rumal features do-rukhi (double satin stitch) stitching technique. The do-rukhi technique is the art of embroidery in which exact images are made on both sides of the handkerchief using a satin thread.


The artworks made on the handkerchiefs features intricate motifs inspired from nature or the mythological sculptures found on the walls of royal palaces. On few Chamba Rumals, you may find different embroidered scenes depicting hunting of wild animals, an image of the Hindu deity Krishna dancing with milkmaids, or scenes from Mahabharata. In ancient times, these royal handkerchiefs were to cover platters as gifts during royal occasions, as offerings to a deity, or as tokens of goodwill when exchanged during weddings.


Unfortunately, with the end of the royal era, this beautiful Himalayan art has become lesser known. However, even today, many local artisans indulge in this ancient art form. But this handicraft is not popular in India – as the local artists don’t have an appropriate market to reach out the potential buyers.

Nevertheless, a few NGOs and government bodies are trying hard to bring this little-known ancient art to the spotlight. Recently, the tableau of Himachal Pradesh featuring a Chamba Rumal installation was showcased at the Republic Day Parade 2017 in New Delhi.


The tableau of Himachal Pradesh featuring a Chamba Rumal installation at the Republic Day Parade 2017 in New Delhi.

One of the biggest challenge faced by Chamba Rumal embroiderers nowadays is to keep their art alive in this modern era. But the local artisans are positive that their artwork will flourish even today, and they’re passing the traditional art to future generation as well. Hopefully, in coming years this beautiful Himalayan art will get the recognition that it deserves.





Via: TheBetterIndia

Monika has been writing about trending artifacts across diverse platforms for over three years. Her all-time fascination with both traditional and non-traditional artworks led her to explore the world of art and humanities. She founded EdgyMinds in 2016 to discover emerging artists and indulge her passion for creativity. Connect with her at Facebook I Twitter I G Plus