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Arts and Crafts in Himachal Pradesh

I am a lover of art. The ancient art inspires me the most, as it has come down to us after the hard work of centuries.

A scene of rural life of Himachal

A scene of rural life of Himachal

Arts and crafts of Himachal Pradesh

The folk arts are a symbol of civilization and its making.

They present the skill of the people to create beauty and excellence from the available materials and natural resources.

The exquisite, aesthetic and worth appreciating handicrafts that come out of this tiny hill state of India consist of carpets, leather works, shawls, metalware, woodwork, leather or plant fiber shoes, masks, bamboo works, paintings, sculpture and much more.

The art of wood carving and stone chiseling is considered to be the part and parcel of the rural folks of Himachal Pradesh.

They adorn the galleries and museums because of becoming obsolete now due to lack of marketing and royal or elite patronage.

The hilly architecture, art objects, floral and geometric designs of Kullu shawls, the woven leather shoes of Chamba together with hemp fiber shoes are typical of local origin, the style of which has been perfected over centuries.

it is the women who still take an active part in embroidery, pottery, weaving and making of hemp fiber shoes.

The men are perfect in chiseling, painting, metal-casting, carpenter work, carving etc.

Metalcraft, Jewelry and Musical Instruments

Ever since 600 AD, the crafted objects made from different metals. have always been a ritualistic need of the people of Himachal Pradesh.

The princely states and the courts of the local kings gave patronage to the craftsman who had mastered and specialized the art of metal-ware for religious, household and war purposes and hence the art flourished around the temples and palaces.

Iron and brass are still used for household utensils.

Other metal-wares include ritualistic vessels, idols, gold and silver jewelry, tools and equipment etc.

The towns famous for the metalcraft are Kinnaur, Chamba, Rohru, Jogindernagar, Kangra Bilaspur, Sarahan etc,

The antique and artistic metal statuettes or idols in the ancient temples of Himachal are one of the most significant and exquisite aspects of metal-craft. Such idols or statues of local gods and goddesses appear in metal plaques as symbols of concerned deities and are carried over from one place to another in a palanquin during religious festivities.

Repousse technique was made in use to create The temple doors of Brijeshwari Devi and Jawalamukhi temples of Kangra, the Bhimakali temple of Sarahan in Shimla, the Naina Devi temple in Bilaspur and the Chandika Devi temple of Kinnaur are made by the use of repousse or repoussage.

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It is a design making technique in metalwork, where a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side.

A canopy made of gold at the Jwalamukhi temple is one of the examples of Himachal's metalwork which believed to have been gifted by Mughal emperor Akbar.

The metalwork of Kinnaur depicts a unique synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism.

For metal-craft designs in Kinnaur, the methods like solid casting, hollow casting, beating and raising processes are quite prevalent.

Dating back to the period of Bronze age the tradition of metal-ware casting in Chamba is an exquisite testament to its rich heritage.

The town іs аn important center fоr the making оf musical instruments, farm implements, weapons and other traditional handicrafts in the workshops of local artisans and blacksmiths.

The metal-ware are often used fоr iconography іn temples.

The items are typically made оf copper, brass, iron, etc.Especially for the decoration of the walls is done with large plaques in common reliefs.

The copper or brass is used to furnish the cupolas of the temples while the golden Kalasha оr the urn crowning the pinnacle of the temples are also produced.

The traditional instruments like kettle drum or nagara, the cymbals, bells, brass plates etc are made in Chamba Kinnaur, Mahasu and other parts of Himachal Pradesh.

Both the straight and the curved trumpets or ransinga are also produced.

Besides the traditional jewelry, the kitchenware are also made іn gold or silver.

The variety оf influences on jewelry of Chamba is due to its history of new immigration frоm Tibet and other parts оf the country.

Musical Instruments

Trumpet in local procession

Trumpet in local procession

Wood Craft

The woodcraft of Himachal especially of Kinnaur area, with its unique designs and the methods of production, has come to enjoy a place of pride in the folk-craft of India.

The people of the region still adhere to their traditions and lifestyles. This has provided an originality and uniqueness to the folk-craft.

Hence the craftsman of the region are the finest exponents of traditional woodcraft.

It is rather difficult to pinpoint the origin of these ancient crafts in Kinnaur, though it has been widely accepted that they have been in vogue for centuries.

It is said that the art form originated in Tibet.

The religious feelings took shape in the form of beautiful idols of local deities and hence the craft flourished in Kinnaur.

The craftsman of Kinnaur often uses a dragon motif, which is very popular.

The types of wood like that of walnut, pine, Cedrus deodar, wild black mulberry, chestnut, teak etc., play a significant role as a structural raw material because of their abundance in Himachal Pradesh.

The places like Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur are famous for their woodcraft.

There is a tradition of constructing the villas and village houses in remote areas with carvings on doors, windows, balconies, ceilings and panels.

Wood carving and wood turning skills displayed on items like fruit bowls, mugs and statues are really impressive and aesthetic.

Wool Weaving

The sheep rearing and woolgathering are the part of the life of the people of Himachal due to extreme cold in winters.

There is a pit loom in almost every household because the wool is considered to be pure and is also used as a ritual cloth by the people.

The shawl is a well known woven object with its varieties ranging from fine pashmina to the coarse ones.

The woolen carpets and blankets are also vital in the local lifestyle.

The handmade and colorful shawls of Kinnaur and Kullu are famous for their striking and exquisite patterns.

The shawls, saris, and trousers in Kinnaur are woven in wool and typical dresses are made from it.

The Rampur shawls are known for their soft texture and close-knit patterns.

These shawls are very famous in the adjoining Tibet too.

The durability of Chamba shawls with chequered patterns and embroidered designs could be recognized at a single glance.

These woolen shawls іn traditional designаre are woven оn hand looms which typically have а bright border.

The shawls of pashmina made from fine wool are considered to be a prized and luxurious possession.

The yak wool is also used to male shawls and pullovers in Lahaul and Spiti.

These products are highly in demand in India and even in foreign countries.

The products of woven wool like carpets, mattress blankets known as dohru, blankets, woolen shoes, gloves, socks etc are made from the sheep wool.

The wool is then converted into yarn after being carded with hands or carding brushes or carding bows.

After furnishing the yarn on wheel called takli or charkha or spinning wheel.

Then the wrap is prepared on the peg wrap and thereafter the weaver weaves various patterns in different colors.

The Tibetan wool and colored woolen yarn are also used in various products.

The rulers of erstwhile Rampur state helped a great deal in the development of the local woolen and textile industry.

Chamba Rumal and the Chamba Chappal

Known for its natural beauty, Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is a traditional home of attractive embroidery and footwear in different designs and styles.The centuries old designs of chappals or footwear and delicately embroidered rumal are the unique features of Chamba.

The handkerchiefs and the shawls аre made іn abundance on the traditionally hand-spun texture. They аre made in such а wаy that the both sides оf the cloth lооk identically embroidered.The tradition of making the footwear and handkerchief in Chamba is unique.

Embroidered Rumal or Handkerchief or the Headgear. Popularly called the Kasida work is especially done on Chamba rumal, and it is another specialty. It may conjure up a vision of a handkerchief, but to the discerning eye, it is a form of adornment. It is not used as a handkerchief in the ordinary sense of the word and is presented during the weddings.It forms an important part of the bride's trousseau. The men drape these over their shoulders, while the women use it as a flowing veil. It is a tradition in Chamba that the bride's trousseau is not complete without this rumal.

The men drape these over their shoulders, while the women use it as a flowing veil. It is a tradition in Chamba that the bride's trousseau is not complete without this rumal.

It is a fine article of decoration and is also used as a wall hanging, door screen, cushion cover and bed- spreads.

The unique thing about this rumal is the same embroidery on both sides. The background is always creamy or white in color. The embroidery skills are in vivid and striking contrasts, while the embroidery is carried out on plain cotton or silk fabrics.The whole work is carried out in running stitches with no gap left in between the stitches and the work. It is called duna-tanka or double stitch.

The themes or the motifs are based on the Chamba and the Kangra school of paintings. It depicts the famous Suhi fair, Shepherd and shepherdess moving with their goats, Krishna Lela and the scenes from the Mahabharata.

In early days the style of embroidery flourished to such an extent that the Chamba Rumal received the patronage of the ruling chiefs. The end of 18th century saw the downfall of this art. It was again revived in the 20th century by Raja Sham Singh of Chamba.

As an article of presentation to the foreign dignitaries, the Chamba Rumal was also recognized by the government of India and earned the national fame.