The Chamba Rumal gets its name from Chamba, a hill-station in Himachal Pradesh, where it has been practised for centuries. The earliest records of the region dates back to 2nd century BC, making it one of the most ancient destinations in the state. The region is known for its history, architecture and landscapes but the local community is also known for its arts and crafts, in particular the miniature Pahari paintings.
The Pahari school of art has received royal patronage since the 17th century when it is believed to have originated in the region. Though miniature Pahari paintings are most commonly recognised, the term encompasses a variety of forms from murals to paintings. The impeccable needlework on the Chamba Rumals too is derived from the art movement, combining miniature art with embroidery.
Chamba Rumals are typically made in square or rectangular fabric of varying sizes. The base art, characterised by intricate lines, is traditionally drawn by miniature art experts.
The motifs on these handkerchiefs have traditionally drawn from indigenous tales, including the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The figures of Krishna and his accompanying Gopis are leitmotifs in this embroidery tradition, and the subject also draws from the Bhagvad Puranas, nature and the lives of the local community members.
Practiced actively till early 20th century, declining patronage from royal quarters led to the art slowly dying in the second half of the decade. Even as local artisans like National Award winner Maheshi Devi, Lalita Vakil, Chhimbi Devi and others have won laurels for their embroidery, the Chamba Rumal faded from public consciousness, even making way for cheap and inauthentic imitations.
source: the better India