Chamba Rumal

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Chamba Rumal: Embroidered Paintings

Rai, Purnima

Amongst the rich repertoire of embroideries known and practiced in India, the Chamba Rumal , a narrative style of embroidery, stands apart as  being unusual and striking both visually as well as in the beauty of its concept. It takes its name from the historic city of Chamba, in Himachal Pradesh, where it is still commonly practiced.  Chamba is a small picturesque town perched on a hilly ridge rising above the gushing waters of the river Ravi (Irawati). Embroidery was practiced in these regions from early times. Women were known to embroider their cholis (blouses) and embroidered scarves, which were also called rumals, were worn around the neck of the men folk.  This practice was widely spread in this entire region which included the neighbouring towns of Guler, Nurpur and Basohli. It is interesting to note that these towns also became associated with their special ateliers of miniature painting. However, it was the Rajas (rulers) of Chamba who in the 18th and 19th centuries fostered and encouraged this particular style of embroidery which then came to be known as the Chamba Rumal. Rumal means a kerchief, in this case a square piece of embroidered cloth.  It was used as wrappings for auspicious gifts and as coverings for ceremonial dishes.  Even today, during marriages in Chamba, rumals are exchanged between families of the bride and groom as a token of goodwill.  Pahari miniature paintings of this period are replete with imagery which show the embroidered rumal being used in this manner.  It was an important social custom of the region ...
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