Chamba Rumal: From Village Threads to Geographical Indication Tag

The intricate designs were inspired by Pahadi paintings, folk arts, and tales depicting mythology and events, adorned with untwisted metal thread, later substituted due to metal oxidation.

Aditi Nag
New Update

Originating in a village in India, the migration of Chamba Rumal from regions of Himachal Pradesh has earned it a Geographical Indication Tag. It weaves stories around a culture that cherishes art and passes it down through generations.


The art of embroidery stands as a timeless symbol of India's rich heritage, spanning centuries and passed down through generations. Even as modernity has ushered in changes, this cherished tradition has evolved, its legacy enduring.

History and Origin


Speaking of one such embroidery art from Chamba, historical evidence suggests that it was first practised by Bebe Nanaki, sister of Guru Nanak, who presented her handiwork to him during his wedding in the 16th century. One of the oldest forms of this embroidery, known as the Chamba Rumal, emerged in the late 16th century in the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh, India. The term 'Rumal' derives from Persian, meaning 'handkerchief,' indicating a square piece of cloth. Chamba Rumal specifically refers to the intricate embroidery done on hand-spun 'khaddar' or fine muslin cloth, often with silk, featuring untwisted metal thread or silk yarns in square and oblong formats.

This art form flourished during the 17th century, particularly during the reign of Raja Amrit Pal in Basholi. However, political instability and insecurity during the rule of his successor, Raja Vijay Pal, forced artisans to migrate to different regions of the state. Consequently, the art spread widely during the 18th and 19th centuries, thriving in parts of Chamba under Raja Raj Singh's rule and in Kangra under Maharaja Sansar Singh.

This art was initially practised in the homes of common people during leisure time and was gifted to their daughters during their wedding in dowries as a symbol of love, culture, and legacy. Girls were taught this art from a young age, passing it down through generations. Over time, it gained recognition both nationally and internationally.

Colours, Fabrics, Designs and Crafting Process


The fabrics primarily used were hand-spun cotton, which was affordable and produced by the local clan of Chambal. Muslin, easy to handle was also utilised. Silk, though expensive, was generally reserved for the upper communities and royal families, symbolizing status. The intricate designs were inspired by Pahadi paintings, folk arts, and tales depicting mythology and events, adorned with untwisted metal thread, later substituted due to metal oxidation. Colours such as purple, pink, ultramarine, Persian blue, yellow, green, orange, and carmine were commonly observed.

The art of embroidery was perfected by artisans through several steps, including design creation, tracing onto fabrics, embroidery, and finishing. With the use of sharp needles and precise tension and pressure, neat and even designs were achieved. Medium-length needles with large eyes were preferred to prevent thread breakage during embroidery. Artisans employed the 'do-rukha' or double-sided embroidery technique, ensuring identical designs on both sides of the fabric.

It was a typical formation and depiction inspired by nature, folk tales, and mythology. The designs mostly included flowers, leaves, animals, bride and groom, dholis, chariots, deities, etc. Artisans meticulously embroidered each motif by hand, showcasing their expertise and creativity. Eventually, a modern twist incorporated synthetic dyes into fabrics to meet contemporary tastes. You can have a look at the crafting of embroidery and how it is practised.

Cultivated GI tag


Over the years, the art of Chamba Rumal has gained significant prominence worldwide. Currently, this art is experiencing a resurgence, with people working diligently to preserve and promote it. Recognised for its cultural significance, this product has been granted protection under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, following its inclusion in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement on 22 January 2007.

Within the vast spectrum of art, Chamba Rumal stands out as a prominent element and a notable contribution to our nation in terms of popularity, culture, and diversification. India, with its rich cultural heritage, cherishes and celebrates these traditional crafts. Preserving and promoting these heritage crafts not only pays homage to our past but also ensures that their timeless beauty continues to inspire future generations.

himachal pradesh chamba rumal Geographical Indication Tag of India Embroidery in India Pahadi paintings folk arts GI Tag