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Miniature art on a hanky: Delhi exhibition seeks to revive a dying Himachal craft

A variety of Chamba Rumals, in which motifs of pahari miniature paintings are embroidered on to muslin handkerchiefs, is on display at a six-day exhibition in the Capital.

art and culture Updated: Apr 04, 2017 20:27 IST
New Delhi
Chamba Rumal,Pahari miniature paintings,Dying art Chamba Rumal
The Chamba Rumaal is distinct in its floral borders and exquisite ornamentation and portrayal of figures and animals of the hills.(Photo courtesy: Delhi Crafts Council Facebook)

Good art comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes the shape is square – about 36 X 36 inches. Only that the canvas is replaced by a muslin handkerchief, which is embroidered with motifs of pahari miniature paintings.

Popularly known as the ‘Chamba Rumal’, a handicraft tradition that flourished in Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) in the 18th and 19th centuries, is on the wane, and breathing a fresh lease of life into the art form is a new exhibition, Raas: Life to a Dying Art.

Organised by Delhi Crafts Council (DCC), the six-day exhibition underway at India Habitat Centre here, has on display an array of ‘rumals’ in different sizes, the largest being 60 X 48 inches.

The ‘Chamba Rumaal’ is distinct in its floral borders along with the exquisite ornamentation and portrayal of figures and animals of the hills. Several motifs also include those of Lord Krishna.

“Traditionally, pahari miniature artists, usually men, drew outlines on fine handspun and hand woven unbleached muslin. After which, upper-class women then embroidered upon these compositions using untwisted coloured silk floss.

Once used to cover offerings made to Gods, Chamba rumals are losing their relevance in present times. (Photo courtesy: Delhi Crafts Council Facebook)

“The double satin stitch technique used is known as ‘do-rukha’ and ensures exact duplication of the image on the reverse,” says Purnima Rai from DCC, which has been working towards the revival of the craft since 1992.

Rai says the ‘rumals’ which were once used to cover offerings made to Gods and exchanged during marriages as a token of goodwill, were gradually losing their relevance in the present times.

“The main reason for its downfall is lack of patronage, and subsequent degradation in the quality of the rumals, which includes inferior painting, inferior materials used and poor skills in making the ‘rumals’.

“However, we decided to renew the tradition and revive it by initiating a series of measures, including training and skilling of artisans, besides making efforts to popularise them,” she says.

The Council is also offering guided tours of the exhibition to provide viewers with an in-depth understanding of the art form. The exhibition is set to conclude on April 8.

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First Published: Apr 04, 2017 20:27 IST