Chamba rumal: A poetry in thread

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Chamba, Oct 5: In a bid to revive and preserve the famed Chamba Rumal and to revive its fading style of embroidery the Himachal Pradesh government has started a training centre in this historic town on the banks of the Ravi river.

With the efforts of the government, Chamba Rumals are now available at all the emporia of the Himachal Pradesh government at Shimla, Delhi, Banglore, Chandigarh and Mumbai. The price of this artistic piece of art ranges from just Rs 250 per 'rumal' to Rs 10,000. Besides the government, a few NGO's have also come forward to save this traditional art of Chamba. The efforts of the government and the NGOs has generated interest amongst local residents and presently there are about 500 women/girls who are receiving training in embroidery at the government training centre here.

With the efforts of the state government's science and technology department, the Chamba Rumal has now been patented.

Earlier the department had got the Kullu shawl and Kangra tea patented.

Though the Chamba Rural has a very old history but it was in 1884, under the patronage of Raja Umed Singh that this piece of art got a new thrust. Thereafter the traditional needlework on the Chamba Rumal became famous in the country and even abroad.

Some of the best Chamba Rumals can still be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museums in London. One such 'Rumal' at one of the two museums is in the form of a wall hanging which depicts scenes from the Mahabharata.

The art of the intricate needlework on these Rumals was traditionally done by household women in different regions of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu. The Rumals, ranging from one square feet to ten square feet, once formed an integral part of the bride's dowry. The size and intricacy of the handiwork (needlework) reflected the bride's family's stature in society.

As wall hangings and museum pieces, Chamba Rumals depict the phase when the style of the miniature school of painting translated itself to the field of needle work.

The craftsperson involved in 'designing' the Rumal usually drew inspiration from mythology, 'pahari' miniatures, ragas and raginis, shrimad bhagwat, royal hunts and raslila, which they brought alive on a coarse piece of cloth with shimmering untwisted threads.

The outline of the Rumal is executed in charcoal and then given to an artist who fills in all the details ranging from the inner composition to the floral or geometric border around the pictures.

Both sides of the cloth are stitched simultaneously, so that space on both sides is filled up making the design on both faces look equally effective and similar in content, That is why this technique is called Dorukha, Persian for two-faced. Moreover, not a single knot is made in the thread.

The finished piece was fixed in a specially fashioned wooden frame with both sides having glass and moving. Today there is even a dearth of skilled carpenters who can make such beautiful frames.

As objects of art, the rumals available today are either sub-standard or too expensive. The cost of genuine work ranges from Rs 250 Rs 10,000.

In the year 1974, a master craftsman award was given to Maheshi Devi known as Adhyapika Jee by the then President of India and in 1993, Mrs Lalita Vakil also received the award for the Chamba Rumal. Thereafter Chhimbi Devi and Kamla Nayar also received the state awards and recommendations of the Government of India for the rumal.

UNI

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