The Chamba Rumal or Chamba handkerchief
It is an embroidered handiwork. In addition, it was once supported under the patronage of the ancient rulers of Chamba kingdom. These towels have detailed patterns in bright and pleasing color schemes. People gifted Chamba handkerchiefs during marriages.
The Chamba Rumal is a precise representation of Himalayan embroidery and crafts traditions. Chamba is a hill-station in Himachal Pradesh. Artists practice this art form at Chamba for centuries, hence the name. Royalty of Himachal Pradesh patronized this art form.
Bebe Nanki, sister of Guru Nanak, in the 16th century, worked on this art form earlier, as per the records. This work is now stored in the Gurudwara at Hoshiarpur.
From the 17th century, the women of the preceding royal state of Chamba (now part of Himachal Pradesh) entertained in the embroidery of the rumals. Furthermore, even the members of the royal family made Chamba handkerchiefs and gifted them for marriages or as dowry to their daughters.
Artists use fine hand made silk to make handkerchiefs. They are in shapes of square and rectangle. They used the silk obtained from the Punjab or muslin cloth, a product of Bengal. Women created extremely delicate patterns using untwined thread made of silk. They produced these silk threads in Sialkot (in Pakistan), Amritsar and Ludhiana. Women adopted Dohara Tanka or double satin stitch embroidery technique. They created different identical patterns on both faces of the fabric. They were charming when seen even from distance of 10 feet and more.
After Indian Independence, this art work lost its royal patronage. Hence, the quality declined due to commercialization by producing many cheaper varieties. Consequently, to recover this art work, in the 1970s, Usha Bhagat (a friend of Indira Gandhi) came forward. They collected original designs of this art work from museums and collections. They trained women artists in this art work. As a result, they recreated and restored 16 designs.
The Government registered this art for protection under the Geographical indication of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.