Stitching Stories: Art of making Chamba Rumal, Focus: Himachal Pradesh
The embroidery art of Chamba rumal is known for its uniqueness and stitches. Also, the involvement of religion, mythology and devotion makes this art work more significant. This art is prevalent in the Northern hills from a very long period, approximately 16th century. Chamba town stands on the right bank of the river Ravi. As a former princely State, it is one of the oldest in the century. During that time rumal embroidery was not confined to Chamba only but was also done in other neighbouring regions like Bilaspur, Kangra, Jammu, Nurpur, Mandi and Basohli. But most of the rumals found by art historians belonged to Chamba and they named it as Chamba rumal. Also Chamba has its own uniqueness and style of work which makes it distinctive. These are small square, rectangular, round as well pieces of fine or coarse textile skillfully embroidered with colorful untwisted silk thread. In earlier times rumals were embroidered by women households and were used for covering offerings made to Gods and Goddesses and were also exchanged by people on auspicious occasions and festivals. Embroidered rumal also played an important role in marriage and was always kept in girl’s dowry by her parents. Folk and classical are the two categories of rumal in which classical came later and have a deep relationship with Pahari paintings. The process of making rumal starts with drawing the outlines of the theme to be used. Earlier, the drawing and embroidery both was done by women only, but later when paintings came, people started getting inspiration from it and transformed the folk style of rumal to classical. In this case, drawing of outlines was done by painters which gave the touch of sophistication and royalty to this art. Chamba rumal flourished the most in 17th century under the reign of Raja Umed Singh. But slowly and gradually, its importance and sacredness among people started becoming low. If we look at the current scenario, people of Chamba are doing this work for their survival and to earn money. Its more of a commercial object than religious. The people who came from other places buy these rumals and use them for decorative purposes. Also, the quality of work is not at all comparable to the old rumals. After the independence it was, Kamaladevi Chattopadhya who impressed by the Chamba Rumal took an interest in reviving this art form. But the revival did not continue for long. So, later the Himachal Pradesh government set up a center for promoting this art but it didn’t work because of disinterest and unwareness among the people. Then again in 1967, The Delhi crafts Council took up the challenge and started a training center in Chamba named ‘Charu’ to create awareness of this naive art among craftsmen as well as for other people. Most of the old rumals are in Museums now. Some of them are - Bhuri Singh Museum (Chamba), Baroda state museum, Kangra Art museum, Himachal Museum (Shimla), Indian Museum (Calcutta), National Museum (New Delhi), Calico Museum (Ahmedabad) and Victoria and Albert museum in London.