Little Known Story of Chamba Rumal – Himachal’s Unique Handkerchief

For most of us, the humble cloth handkerchief is just another mousy piece of item for everyday use. At the max bearing a monogram or delicate design in a corner — these piece of cloth are usually plain, perfect for the banal acts of wiping hands and faces. But the Chamba Rumal (rumal means handkerchief) is no ordinary cloth, and certainly just too rare and precious to wipe your face with.

The word Chamba rumal implies a peculiar visual art form that represents unique and charming embroidery done on a hand spun cloth with untwisted silken thread, which is greatly inspired from pahari painting. The tradition of this kind of pictorial embroidery was known and practiced in Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur areas of Himachal and Basoli in Jammu that remained important centres of pahari painting.

Embroidering-on-a-Chamba-Rumal
It is believed that Raja Prithvi Singh started d-mukha tanka art form in 17the century and later Raja Bhuri Singh commercialised the production of Chamba Rumals in 20th century. Gradually the craft has vanished in other parts of Himachal but still remains in Chamba. 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.

One of the earliest example of the embroidery incidentally can be found in Punjab — Bebe Nanki, sister of the Sikh spiritual leader Guru Nanak, reportedly embroidered one in the 16th century and the item was preserved in the state’s Hoshiarpur shrine.
Another handkerchief made its way to Britain in 1883 when Raja Gopal Singh presented a Chamba Rumal to the British, embroidered with a scene from the Mahabharata, which was later added to the collection of London’s Victoria & Albert museum.

Rich History
In the 17th century, the Chamba Rumal embroidery was done by the queens and royal ladies of Chamba for wedding dowries, important gifts and ceremonial coverings.

The tradition gradually made its way out of palace walls and began to be practised by local craft clusters. The Rumals came to be an integral part of weddings, exchanged by the bride and groom’s families as a sign of goodwill.
In his book Chamba Himalaya: Amazing Land, Unique Culture, KR Bharti draws attention to the painstaking process of Chamba Rumal embroidery — using naturally dyed silk floss on mal-mal or khaddar — and the distinctive double-sided technique seen in the designs.

The picture on both sides of the fabric is almost the same…The drawing is done in outline with fine charcoal or brush. The embroidery is done in a variety of colours by a double satin stitch carried forward and backward alternately. Both sides of cloth are stitched simultaneously so that the space on both sides is filled up making the design on both sides look equally effective and similar in content. That is why this technique is called dorukha (two-faced).KR Bharti
Awesome value, even today
It takes two to three months to prepare an excellent Chamba Rumal that can cost anything between Rs, 40,000 to Rs. 50, 000. A small Chamba Rumal costs between Rs.4, 000 to Rs. 5,000 as it takes only a week to prepare it.

Chamba

Verge of extinction

Once a popular art form in various areas of Himachal and Jammu – it is today only alive in Chamba. In recent times, one of the greatest impetuses to the art came in 2007 when the Chamba Rumal was accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) patent by the Geographical Indications Registry. It helped to curb the sale of inauthentic items and also brought the art form back into the spotlight.

Chamba Rumal

Visit the Chamba district to witness this handicraft form, the craftsmen society and villages, which was once fashionable even to the Britishers.

Villages of Parvati Valley near Kasol – Tosh, Malana, Chalal

Lovely Parvati river valley. Mountains rising all around. Scattered camp sites. Fresh, cool, mountain breeze. Synthesis of multinational cultures. Bar, bakeries, cheap stays. Partying, Trekking, Hoping all around.

Kasol – still a small Himachali village with simple and transparent पहाड़ी people. The valley has gradually became a back-packers paradise. Mostly a global tourists’ favorite, steadily now a prized destination for Indians too.

Some of the regular activities everybody does while in Kasol are Kheerganga Trek, Riverside Camping, Hoping between numerous hanging joints, Rafting & Trout Fishing in Parvati. However, here are some further trips you can venture on – Excursion to the villages of Parvati Valley on Foot – Tosh, Malana, Chalal along with Kasol.

Chalal

The picturesque village of Chalal, only a 30-minute easy trek from Kasol.
Cross the Mashairon bridge connecting the Kasol mall to the forests on the other side. As you walk, Parvati rumbles below; while birds chirp continuously as if in a well-orchestrated concert. All along, the beautiful Parvati river accompanies you.
This is one of the reasons this route is one of the favorites of solo hiker – the Parvati never allows you to feel alone even in the dense narrow path towards Chalal.

Enroute to Chalal

Chalal is small secluded and quaint village with nothing to attract a regular tourist. But if you are lucky to have curious eyes and traveler’s heart, there are so much in this small mountain nook. Local cultures are gradually giving way to facilities for tourists. Italian joints are more easily available than a local food outlet. You can however have one of best pizzas you ever had. From a simple Himachali village it has been transformed into a Bob Marley country.

chalal village trek

The nature has not given up yet! The birds, the blossoming cherry trees, pink and white apricots blankets everywhere. Just grab a spot near the river, randomly, and spend sometime with yourself.

Malana

Malana – they say, it is one of India’s best kept secrets. May be its true, may be not. Still the social ecosystem and lifestyle of the people would leave you bemused. For instance as per the local villagers, Malana is the oldest republic of the world!

people of malana

Malana might be infamous for its Malana Cream, but the tiny unique village is much more to offer to you. As a quite exemplary case of guarding and shielding itself from the globalization and infinite influx of multicultural tourist flow, Malana still managed to control its culture and identity.

Visiting Malana is in itself an experience just to witness their strong and still original traditions. They don’t even eat food cooked by a non-native. When in Malana, be sure not to touch the walls or belongings of the natives unless you want a fine imposed. Unlike the rest of India, the village of Malana has its own religious beliefs. The Malanese people believe that they are descendants of Alexander The Great, and don’t you dare to challenge that. The entire village votes for the person chosen by their deity. The deity’s spokesperson is called Gur. The people here believe that the mountains make their own rules. The significance of faith is really important to these people, which is why they still ask their Devta who to vote for. These are just some of the instances that makes Malana a place to visit and discover.

Malana and Chandrakhani

Only 22 kms trek from Kasol, Malana invites and hosts every kind of people. Families to Hippies. Nature lovers to Charas suitors. Adventurers to Peace seekers.

Tosh

Situated at a height of 7874 feet above sea-level, Tosh is the village at the far end of the Parvati Valley. The drive from Kasol to Barshaini, which is the last stop on the bus route to Tosh, is fairly smooth, but from then on, the path is treacherous. The last few kilometres to a destination are often the most exciting as its beauty comes into view.

Tosh Valley

Blessed with unique natural beauties, Tosh is the most ideal place for bachelors, adventure seekers, bikers, solo travelers and for those who want something new and special from traveling.

Tosh

Go to Kasol, and the nearby unexplored areas. Experience a journey like never before, and nowhere else.