Chamba Rumal

The embroidery of Chamba was characterized by spontaneity and rhythm rooted in the soil of the region. In its own way it contributes to the glorification of God and nature. It awakens a sense of wonder in the human mind, at the things of beauty which had been conceived and executed by women. It was also so overwhelmed by nature's riotous beauty that it was caught up in its own alluring embrace and was a class by itself. It was evident that this kind of embroidery was practiced not only in Chamba but all over the Pahari area, viz. Kangra, Basholi, Nurpur, Jammu, Haripur, Guler, Bilaspur, Salyali, Mandi, Kulu, Hoshiarpur etc.

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Map of Chamba
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Styles of Embroidery


The culture of Himachal Pradesh was a perfect blend of the folk sensibility and the sophisticated genius of the master craftsmen from the royal courts. This resulted in two distinctly different styles of Chamba embroidery, one elegant and fine in draftsmanship known as miniature style of embroidery, while the other coarse and bold in treatment known as folk style of embroidery.



The folk style of Chamba embroidery was an essential outcome of the creativity of the womenfolk of Chamba while working during the hours of leisure. The evidence available points towards a wide spread practice of embroidery among women in the region with its roots in a more folkloric culture. Folk embroidery owes its expression to the sheer urge to create, a delight in representation and occasionally even in beauty. The women artisans reveal a surprising grasp of essentials and considerable powers to express them. Sometimes, the female embroiderers would prefer to draw the patterns and figures themselves.

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Folk style
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Miniature style

On the other hand, the miniature style of embroidery was greatly inspired by the art of pahari painting. It, therefore, at times acquired its epithet as, 'painting done with a needle'. The drawing was executed in outlines with fine brush by the accomplished pahari painters. The ladies of the royal household or the wives of the nobles also used to embroider these well composed rumals in the leisure time as a pastime activity .

It has been the general opinion of most scholars and art historians that Chamba embroidery was confined to rumals, known as Chamba rumals. The word 'Chamba rumal' implies a peculiar visual art form that represented unique and charming embroidery with figural and floral designs. The cloth employed for the embroidery was generally hand-spun unbleached muslin or khaddar. Machine made cloth, khasa was also used for the purpose in later periods. The threads used for embroidery were untwisted silken thread. A unique technique of double satin stitches known as do-rukha tanka was used in Chamba rumal embroidery. Chamba rumal was generally used as a square coverlet especially at the time of making offerings to God and at weddings.

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Paintings depicting women carrying platters covered with rumals
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This was the most popular and well known article which was embroidered in large numbers in Chamba till late 19th century. From 18th century onwards, the production of embroidered rumals became so abundant that the geographical denomination Chamba rumal became almost a synonym for the embroidery of the entire Himachal Pradesh. The embroidered rumals were more intimate to the life of the common people than even the contemporary miniature paintings. However, Chamba embroidery was not just confined to rumals. Apart from rumals, large hangings were made and offered to a guest in house or village or state. One such rectangular hanging was given by Raja Gopal Singh to a British dignitary who visited Chamba state. This kind of embroidery was also seen on religious textiles, apparel and other utilitarian household objects .


The women embroiderers bestowed on it all their passion for color, their talent and skill to adorn every object of domestic use. These embroidered pieces added color and richness to the lowly and dull milieu of the embroiderers. They remain a joy for ever to those who created them as well as to those for whom they were intended. The warmth, richness of colors and the patient hard work which goes into creating these objects of beauty make them symbolic of the women of Himachal Pradesh . Steeped in the hill folklore as a fine miniature painting blending the traditional and modern concepts of this colorful craft, the Chamba embroidery was a powerful composition in thread.

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Chamba Rumal




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