Introduction Himachal, the term is derived from sanskrit where ‘HIM’ means snow and ‘ACHAL’ means lap. Himachal Pradesh is embedded with Hmalayan mountains, and is surrounded by Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Tibet. Geographically the state is divided in to 3 zones: a) the Shivaliks : lower foot hills, b) the Zaskar : mid Himalyan zone, and c) the Pirpanjal : the Himalayan range.
History reveals that the state of Himachal was ruled by the brave and chivalrous Ranas and Thakurs.
During this era Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism existed in the area, but the poems of Sant Tulsidas, Sant Kabirdas, Jayadeva, Ramananda gave impetus to a new form of art, inspired by the Vaishnava doctrines. This Vaishnava cult gave emphasis on spiritual experience through loving his neighbors.
This principle formed the basis of kangra style paintings. There are evidences that this luxurious embroidery was done in pahari areas like Churah, Chamba, Kangra, Sayali, Basohi, Nurpur, Jammu, Kullu, Mandi and so on.
The embroidery depicted a fine, delicate, perfect manual work and was also called as the ‘Needle miniatures of Himachal’ or ‘Pahari Rumals’ during the eleventh and the twelfth century A.D.
This art was also prevalent in Punjab as Bebe Nanki (sister of Guru Nanak Dev Ji) had embroidered a rumal and presented to him on his wedding day which still has been preserved in Gurudwara of Gurdaspur.
Reflecting back in to the Pahari embroidery, almost all the motifs namely human figures, birds, flora & fauna were highly stylized and disproportionately drawn.
Colors used were very bright, bold and brilliant. The Pahari style was evolved by the ladies of Chamba and their attendants, which led to the complete development of images of the miniatures, the folk style was replaced by subdued colors in the 19 th century and got quite the popularity in the century.
Traditionally the base cloth used was of two types of unbleached cotton cloth, first one being light weight, fine, delicate, cambric like, manufactured in Sailkot, Amritsar, Ludhiana; second being hand-woven, coarser, relatively heavier Khaddar, however Tassar silk was also used in white and cream shades.
In later time this cloth was replaced by the mill made cotton cloth. Today, according to the taste, demand, fashion trends and availability, the ground fabric used can be terycot, organdie, linen, poplin and muslin.
Hand drawing or free style was the mode of tracing the motif or the designs, carried out exclusively by the ladies.
These women drew the figures of their own creation and produced the images of their deity on the material as visualized by them.
Earlier charcoal was used for tracing the outlines but now oil method is being used.
The artists ‘chitra’ used to prepare the designs for rumals, who had sufficient knowledge about pahari paintings started using the motifs from the paintings, they not only drew the motifs also guided the women about the color combination.
The embroidery is done with double satin stitch done both ways, where the effect is reversible.
It is so fine that not only the background is hardly visible but it is very difficult to identify the right side, since the work is never started with a knot but with a back stitch and the threads are never joined with knots either.
It was also observed that in some of the old wall hangings chain stitch was used for outlining as well as filling the motifs, in which it is easy to make out as to where the artist stated from.
However, chain stitch was not used on the rumals though gujjar women sometimes even used darning or herring bone in their creations.
A greater population of Himachal Pradesh are Vaishnavas, believers of lord Krishna, the reincarnation of lord Vishnu.
The motifs are collectively brought from the life history of lord Krishna.
There also exists a compatibility between the movements of the human and the animal motifs in the needle craft.
Motifs, in Himachal embroidery consists of symbolic animals like leaping tigers, running goats, cantering horses, fleeting rams, jumping deer, etc. along with these the bird motifs comprised of peacock, sparrow, or parrots. Sometimes these motifs are used to fill up the empty spaces.
Rumals comprised of elliptical framework having two to three inches of floral bodies on all four sides. Centre of the rumal has creeper and guldastas are in the corners. Sometimes the complete rumal has motifs of animals, birds, trees creeper and foliages giving an impression of a bagh (garden).
Main Themes The themes used in chamba rumals are:
RASAMANDALA this theme depicts the stories about Lord Krishna and Radha together .
KALIYA DAMANA this theme depicts the stories of Lord Krishna slaying the demons.
SAMUDRA MANTHANA this theme depicts the stories of Lord Krishna capturing the 7 headed water snake.
RUKMINI HARANA this theme depicts the stories of the incidents that happened on rukmani’s wedding .
BATTLE OF KURUKSHETRA this theme depicts the stories from the mahabharat.
RAGA RAGNI this theme depicts the 4 ragas(songs).
ASHTA NAYAK this theme depicts the mood swings of the male and a female relationship.
MINJAR MELA JALUS this theme depicts the famous minjar mela