Rain-battered Himachal Pradesh has performed an uphill task of showcasing its artefacts at the G20 world leaders’ summit in Delhi’s Bharat Mandapam against all odds.
Officials say the incessant rains had brought down the hills, but not the spirit of its people.
Lalita Vakil, an acclaimed craftsperson involved in protecting the globally acclaimed but dying art forms of the erstwhile princely hill state of Chamba, has showcased the exquisitely embroidered Chamba ‘rumal’ or handkerchief, which depicts epic scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata, figures of Lord Krishna, his gopis, besides the daily lifestyle and folk stories of Chamba.
The art of embroidery on the Chamba ‘rumal’ originated and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Chamba school of miniature paintings also got royal patronage.
Padma Shri awardee Lalita Vakil has been working for the promotion of Chamba ‘rumal’ for over half a century.
She’s inspiring girls and women to learn the embroidery technique to make the Chamba ‘rumal’ not only to keep alive the legacy but also to become self-dependent and make money.
According to Lalita Vakil, making a Chamba ‘rumal’ is time-consuming owing to the double satin stitch embroidery technique. A one-by-one foot ‘rumal’ with borders on all sides can take 15-20 days to complete.
Besides the Chamba ‘rumal’, Chamba school of miniature paintings, metal artefacts and leather products, mainly Chamba chappals (slippers), have also been showcased.
Akshita Sharma, a young design consultant and curator with state-run Himcraft, earlier known as Himachal Handicraft and Handloom Corp, said Kullu and Kinnauri shawls, all masterpieces of the embroidery, have been quite hit among visitors, especially foreign delegates, at the Himachal craft bazaar.
She said the Chamba ‘rumal’ and Kangra miniature painting, both Geographical Indications (GIs) of Goods Act-tagged products, have been getting enormous response.
Tweed cloth, which in Himachal is called Patti, a traditional short width coarse fabric made of sheep wool woven on handloom, has also been displayed.
She said hand-knitted is a new handicraft addition that is naturally dyed, using indigenous Himalayan wool by women from Naggar — a picturesque place in Kullu where Russian painter and philosopher Nicholas Roerich came in 1927 from St Petersburg and made the tiny village his home.
She said souvenirs and toys made by Gaddi pastoralists, mostly from Chamba and Kangra districts, are also attracting attention.
“We believe these souvenirs and toys will get the maximum attraction from the foreign dignitaries as they are easy to carry back to their destinations. But these mementoes will help branding Himachal Pradesh the tourist destination too,” an optimist Akshita said.
She added that despite bad condition of roads in interiors of Kullu and Kinnaur districts after July-August natural calamity, the handicraft was arranged and transported to the national capital to showcase the state’s heritage.
The famed British-era Kangra tea, an orthodox variety close to Darjeeling tea, is also catching eyes at the craft bazaar.
The Kangra tea has been registered as a protected GI by the European Union (EU) in May, paving the way for its marketing in its markets.
The hill state is also known for hand-knitted woollens like shawls, stoles, mufflers, socks, gloves, pullovers, caps and carpets, Kangra paintings and jewellery items.
The Kullu and Kinnauri shawls, with intricate borders in bright colours, are made on traditional looms by tribals and are sold all over India and abroad.