Chamba Rumal

Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, India

Date: 18th Century

Origin: Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, India

Dimensions: H 57 x W 54cm

Venue: Gawthorpe Textiles Collection

A Chamba rumal of cotton muslin embroidered in colourful silk threads with a design depicting four figures on horseback and floral borders.

Chamba rumal embroideries take the first part of their name from the small town of Chamba in the Himachal Pradesh region of India and began being produced there in the 17th century. The region was famous for Pahari miniature painting and the influence of these paintings can be seen on the detailed design and subject matter of the embroideries. The second part of their name; rumal, can be translated to handkerchief, covering or coverlet although they were used as gift wrappings and for special occasions such as weddings.

Chamba rumal embroideries are characterised by vibrant colours and stylised yet detailed pictorial designs. Scenes from mythology were popular choices, as well as battles and hunting scenes. This example features four male figures on horseback surrounded by floral borders. The design incorporates several details that are typical of Chamba rumal embroideries including the simplified four petalled flower shapes in the border and striped robes of the figures.

The design would have first been drawn out using a fine paintbrush onto fine handwoven cotton such as khaddar or mulmul. They were then stitched using untwisted silk threads hand-dyed with natural dyes. The main stitch used is a double satin stitch or double darning stitch, which results in a double-sided design with the front and back of the embroidery virtually identical. This item was donated to Gawthorpe Textiles Collection by Norman Shuttleworth Halliwell who purchased it from a silk trader in Amritsar in the Punjab region of India.

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