Discovering the Chamba Rumal – A Himachali Treasure
During Lovnish’s numerous visits to Chamba, he began to understand the cultural richness of this unique land, something which is elegantly depicted in each of its exquisite and artistically embroidered Chamba Rumal.
Himachal Pradesh is a land of deities. True to its core, each of its regions has something special to offer to an avid learner. Chamba is one such enchanting place – a place I have been visiting often. After all, none other than my better half belongs to this magical land.
A culturally rich region, Chamba is as famous for its historic love tales as it is famous for the Chamba Rumal. I had been reading about this art in embroidery since the last so many years, but got a firsthand impression of its elegance at the residence of my in-laws. Who better to explain the elegance of this art than my wife Rashima!
I distinctly remember my first visit to her home in 2009, when Rashima had passionately explained one of the most favourite themes of rumal‘s embroiderers – the playful antics of Krishna with Radha and the other gopis. This beautiful theme is amply displayed in many an exquisite Chamba rumal. Unlike his other mischievous manifestations, Krishna is displayed dancing elegantly with different gopis simultaneously in this embroidery art of Himachal Pradesh – one which has gained worldwide recognition.
During a visit to the Bhuri Singh Sangrahalaya, a museum in Chamba town which is a storehouse of the various rich pieces of the region, I saw numerous other depictions of this traditional art form on various rumals. These included various deities including Ganesh, Durga, Shiva, Lakshmi and Parvati.
For a town which celebrated 1000 years of its existence in 2004, it is but natural for the Chamba rumal to be an expression of the historical and cultural significance of the momentous occasion. Apart from the depiction of deities, the Chamba rumal also depicts many historic tales of the bygone era. Hunting scenes with animals such as tigers, deer and bears being attacked with spears and spades by kings too have been depicted in rich detail.
I had always desired to know the intricate work that went behind the making of the Chamba rumal. To my surprise, I came to know of Rashima’s distinct taste for this special art. She explained that soft shades are often used in this embroidery and double darning stitches appear the same on both the sides.
The finest of all Chamba rumals look more like exquisite paintings, while those crafted by beginners have patterns only on a single side. Almost all of the rumals have floral borders which are clearly visible on all its sides. However, those embroidered in geometric patterns on the lines of phulkari embroidery are exceptions. The artists, who have gained worldwide fame from this regional art, however, have not restricted the depiction of this art form to the Chamba rumals only. During a visit to an exhibition of the work of embroiderers of Chamba, I found that the craftsmanship finds its way in caps, pillow covers and bed spreads. However, the finest form of this art is distinctly visible in the splendid Chamba rumals, which come mostly in bright colours as red, orange, purple and pink.
The cultural diversity of Chamba had amazed me then and continues to do so till date. All through my numerous visits in the last six years, I have realized that the place has many mysteries in its fold – the Chamba rumal being one.
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