India is very rich in craft and art forms. Different regions of India have their cultural traditions and most importantly some unique and exotic form of art or craft which cannot be found in other places. Chamba rumal is such an example. Chamba, situated on the river Ravi, is a hill station of Himachal Pradesh Popular for its art and embroidery. This small settlement is the birthplace of an intricate form of craft known as the Chamba rumal.
The Chamba Rumal is one of the finest art styles of Himalayan embroidery and crafts traditions. In the 17th century, the Chamba Rumal embroidery was done by the queens and royal ladies of Chamba for various occasions, celebrations, and functions. The Chamba rumal made by Bebe Nanaki, the sister of Guru Nanak, is reported to be one of the earliest ones of this craft. This rumal is now preserved in the Gurudwara at Hoshiarpur. The Victoria Albert Museum, London has a rumal that was gifted to the British in 1883 by Raja Gopal Singh with an embroidered scene of the Kurukshetra War of the epic Mahabharta. The Chamba rumal or Chamba handkerchief is an embroidered handicraft that was once promoted under the patronage of the former rulers of the Chamba kingdom. It is said that the King and his nobles employed and patronized the painter to record important events of their court. The ladies of the court created the same design with needles.
The ‘Chamba rumal’ is a beautiful handkerchief embroidery made on a hand twisted cloth using an untwisted silken thread. This embroidery in itself has the essence of the Himachal and its hills traditions. Khaddar or unbleached muslin is the cloth that is generally used for Chamba rumal embroidery because of its off white and white base which brings out the bright colors of the silk threads used for the embroidery. Moreover, the Khaddar is more easily available, low cost and it lasts longer than other cloths. Ultramarine, Persian blue, carmine, parrot green, deep red, pink, brown, black, white, lemon, deep yellow, brilliant pink, and purple are the color which is used in Chamba rumal very often. Female painter paints and embroiders the outline of the design on the cloth using a fine brush. The embroidery is done in soft shades in small double darning stitches which appear the same on both sides. Outlines and details are worked in double running stitch and sometimes small patterns on costumes and other details are shown in colored darning stitch.
Chamba embroidery mainly contained designs of Hindu deities; Shiva, Ganesha, Durga, Vishnu, Parvati, and Lakshmi. But the favorite and most famous themes of the rumal are the cheerful relationship of Lord Krishna and Radha. Among the other scenes, battle and hunting weapons, wedding scenes and elements of nature like trees, birds, animals, etc.
The tableau of Himachal Pradesh presented Chamba Rumal by using a beautiful statue of a woman doing embroidery work in the 68th Republic Day celebration parade on Rajpath, New Delhi in the year 2017.