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Introduction The Chamba Rumal , is a form of embroidery that flourished in the eighteenth and early twentieth century in the mountain region of north India. Running through Chamba, Kulu, Kangra, Guler, Mandi and Suket, the craft witnessed explicit distinctions between elite and folk art. The languishing craft of the Chamba Rumal refers only to the delicately embroidered rumals created by royal and elite women who had access to the professional services of trained miniature artists. These miniature artists not only drew the theme to be embroidered on the rumal in charcoal, but also provided the women who would be embroidering the rumal with a sophisticated colour palette
Location of Chamba Chamba is the north- western district of Himachal Pradesh. Founded during the 6th century, it is one of the oldest princely states in India. Chamba has a rich history of crafts including metal crafts, miniature paintings, weaving, leather work, wood carving, basketry and jewellery making.
Traditions • It was customary to gift embroidered rumals in a girl’s marriage. • Subjects like wedding scenes were popular and were repeatedly embroidered. • This handicraft , being an important item of the dowry, was dependent for its existence almost on the social custom i.e. wedding. • No marriage ceremony would be reckoned complete with out the gift of Chamba rumal by the relatives of the brides.
Raw materialTraditionally, the fabric used to make the Chamba Rumal washand-spun or hand-woven unbleached thin muslin or malmal.The most popular fabric , employed in Chamba rumals, waskhaddar because of its availability, low cost and durability.
ThreadsThe thread used for the embroidery was untwisted silk yarn,which, in the do - rukha stitch used in Chamba embroidery. Thisuntwisted silk thread - usually made in Sialkot, Amritsar, andLudhiana - was the same as that used in the Phulkariembroidery of the Punjab. Untwisted silken thread
STITCHESThe stitch used in embroidering the Chamba Rumal was the do –rukha, double satin stitch which, as its name implies, can beviewed from two (do) sides or aspects (rukh). The stitch iscarried both backward and forward and covers both sides of thecloth, effecting a smooth finish that is flat and looks like coloursfilled into a miniature painting. No knots are visible, and theembroidered rumal can be viewed from both sides. It thusbecomes reversible.
Dandi Tanka - the stem stitchThe outline in black thread is a marked characteristic, whichis a conspicuous characteristic of the Chamba rumal. Afterfilling the colourful threads in the figures and floral designs ,these are finally enclose with a fine line worked out in blackthread , which apparently lends the powerful affect as seenin pahari miniature painting
Criss Cross stitchThe use of criss cross stitches , which comprise a simpletechnique of crossing two stitches of equal size in the shapeof a cross (X) can be discerned in several rumals. This stitchas a unit comprises a running band mostly in red colour ,arrayed usually in straight or circular line identically visibleon the both sides of the fabric. This criss – cross stitch is nolonger practiced by any contemporary embroider in Chamba .
MOTIFS•Animal and birds motifs are used along with human figures•Bird motifs - parrot, peacock, duck and swan• Animal motifs – tigers, horses, rams• Tree motifs – cypress and the plantain trees bent, laden withflowers and fruits.
Current designs, fabrics and tread used. Chamba Rumal on silk fabric with traditional motifs Currently, raw materials being used are cotton, malmal, silk, terricot and polyester fabrics. Both twisted and untwisted yarn is being used to do the embroidery. The affect and the beauty of the Chamba Rumal are clearly visible on the malmal or cotton. Other fabrics are mostly being used to bring down the costs of the rumal and sell it in the local market
Pahari painting in ChambaThere is a strong link between pahari paintings and the embroidery onthe rumals. The subject of the embroideries ranged from religiousthemes, embodying the strong Vaishnava fervour in the pahari regions,to themes from the great epics, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata.Krishna surrounded by his gopis , godhuli(the hour of cow dust, withKrishna and his cow-herd friends bringing home the cows); the Radha-Krishna alliance are among the popular themes.
Important WorksSo far, the oldest dated rumal is a 16th century creationthat is supposed to have been embroidered by BebeNanki, the sister of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhfaith in India. This is now preserved in the Sikh shrine inGurdaspur in Punjab. A rumal depicting the battle ofKurukshetra - from the Indian epic Mahabharata - is to befound at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Thisoblong piece is supposed to have been presented by RajaGopal Singh of Chamba to the British in 1833.
Bibliography BooksIndian textiles,by John GillowCrafts of Himachal Pradesh , by Subhashlni AryanIndian Embroidery, by Irwin and HallThe techniques of indian embroidery, by Anne MorrellIndian Embroidery, by Jamila BrijbhushanFabric art heritage of india, by Sukladas