The natural splendour of Himachal has an influence on the crafts native to the region. From the low-lying plains of Kangra to the majestic landscape of Lahaul, Himachal has a rich wealth of crafts which has found expression in exquisite wood carvings, beautiful metalware, gracious jewellery patterns, sermons in stone craft and others. Traversing the land, one may stumble upon great works of art and craftsmanship in remote village and valleys. Hidden pockets of local talent have survived the times at many places in the hills.
Age old temples in areas like Minghal, Chadrari, Bharmaur in Chamba district, Kullu, Karsog (Mandi), Sarahan (Shimla) and Kinnaur having finely chiseled wood carvings of gods, goddesses, court scenes and those from everyday life cut out on pillars, wall panels, roof ceilings, wood beams, doors and at other places. This timeless treasure is a heritage from which younger generations take inspiration to improve upon the craft.
Not spoken of much, the wood carving tradition of Himachal is also visible in household stuff like cradles, bedsteads, rolling pins, churners or wooden utensils. Pahari architecture also demonstrate excellent woodworking and attention to detail in crafting wooden houses which advocate form and functionality over a strong structural foundation.
- The skill of embroidery is a favorite pastime as well as an engaging skill among Pahari women. Creating household accessories like tablecloths, rumals (handkerchief), coverlets, caps and other stuff, are some of products that these skilled embroiders make.
- The embroidery of the Chamba Rumal, the Kullu & Kinnauri Shawls are counted among the finest crafts of India.
- The word ‘Chamba Rumal’ implies to a peculiar visual art from that represents unique and charming embroidery done on a hand spun cloth with untwisted silken thread, which is greatly inspired from Pahari painting.
- The drawing was drawn in outlines with the fine brush by the accomplished Pahari painters sometimes, female embroider would prefer to draw the patterns and figures themselves.
- This craft originated developed and flourished in the erstwhile state of Chamba in the 17th – 18th century A.D. when the fascinating art of painting was at its Zenith.
No knots are visible, and the embroidered Rumal can be viewed from both sides. It thus becomes reversible.
- The stitch employed in the embroidery is called do-rukha, means double satin stitch which comes out exactly identical on both sides of the fabric.
- Ras mandal is the famous subject of the rumal however hunting and wedding scenes, Nayika-Bheda, Shiva family, Vishnu’s Dasavatara and episodes from the Bhagvata Purana are other popular themes. Chamba rumal is very famous within the country and out of country.
Chamba Rumal was declared world heritage by UNESCO on 31st October 2008.
Himachal is known for its fine leather crafts like making of shoes, sandals and belts, especially the aesthetically made
- Chamba Chappal (Slipper). The beautiful embodiment of zari, glitter or colorful threads in the Chappal is famous among travelers, making them a sought after souvenir.
- It is said that once upon a time Chamba had no tradition of leather shoes and they wore crude Grass shoes.
- Things changed when the Princess of Kangra was married in the royal family of Chamba. The Princess brought a cobbler family to Chamba as a part of dowry and with this came the culture of the leather shoes.
- The crafts men of this trade used leather of sheep, goat and calf skin for the purpose.
- The striking feature of Chamba chappal is the embroidery done on them.
- The embroidery is done with silk and golden threads called Russi –Tilla.
- The motifs usually are of lantana flower and leaves.
- A unique pair of leather shoes with Zari belonging to royal family of Chamba is preserved in Bhuri Singh Museum.
- Leather embroidered belts are also commonly worn by the local people
- Gemstones cast in silver or gold has fascinated men and women since the dawn of civilization and it has been no different for Himachal.
- The village goldsmith was a trade that kept alive motifs, and designs from generation to generation.
- Over the centuries, intricately designed jewellery in silver and gold, embellished with patterns and precious jewels, became the most prized possessions of village women, and even of those who lived in palaces.
- Design variations are also noticeable in the jewellery patterns of Kangra, Kinnaur, Kullu, Shimla, Sirmaur, Chamba and other parts of the state. The body parts for which ornaments are commonly made are the head, forehead, ears, nose, neck, arms, wrists, fingers ankles and toes.
- Cutting a hard granite stones and patiently chiselling out an idol that is worshipped for generations as a deity signifies the importance stone craft had among the hill community.
- Most of the masterpiece stone craft works that have survived hundreds of years are attributed to anonymous craftsman.
- Gazing at the many stone temples of Mandi, the Laxmi Narayan temple of Chamba, the rock-cut Temples at Masroor (Kangra), the Shiva temple at Bajaura in Kullu or the Shiva temple at Baijnath (Kangra), one cannot but admire the brilliance and artistic skill of the craftsman who worked on them.