The other craft of Chamba is its unique embroidery style.
The Chamba 'Rumal' or handkerchief about 2 to 6 feet in length is an
important part of a Chamba bride's trousseau. This handkerchief is also
known as 'Kashida'. The embroidery is same on both sides and the threads
used are silken and colorful. The cloth used, can be cotton or silk and is
usually white or cream in color. The designs are made in running stitches
with the space filled in so that the picture appears on both sides of the
handkerchief. The designs retain an almost painting kind of an appearance
and are an ideal gift from the region.
Origination Of An Exquisite Art
It all began as a craft to cater to kings. And from there, the products of this domestic craft spread to every household that could afford them - or whose womenfolk could create them. At its simplest, the Chamba Rumal, literally, handkerchief, was a piece of cloth used a small drape or scarf. Steadily this embroidery began covering a range of items for daily use - caps, hand fans, pillowcases and wall hangings.
Embroidered with a double satin stitch, "Dorukha", it displays the pattern as a positive on both sides of the cloth. The earliest Chamba Rumals date back to the mid 18th century - and have had an unbroken lineage as it were, to the present day. The technique is similar to Punjab's "Phulkari", which is not surprising given the trade and cultural links. But the themes that unravel in the stitches are born of the artistic traditions of the hills. The place of the fine brush strokes that created the exquisite miniature paintings of Kangra is shared by the needle and thread of chamba.
As in the paintings, the 'Krishna Lila', is a favoured theme. Hunting expeditions, battle scenes, architecture, and a wealth of geometrical and floral designs have been deftly transferred onto cloth.
The base cloth was originally mal-mal, finely woven cotton fabric, and the embroidery was done with silken threads. The density of the embroidery and the minuteness of the stitches determine the quality of the Rumal. The traditional designs and sizes have adapted to present-day requirements- napkins, tablecloths, wall decorations and bed sheets.