The Textile section of this museum has some representative examples of this art. Mention should be made especially of the Chamba rumals from Himachal Pradesh, Kantha of Bengal, Phulkari from Punjab, Thangkas from Tibet and Nepal, which draw attention of scholars and art lovers. A very distinctive item is the Bapuji Phad from Rajasthan, which visually documents the achievements of the heroic deeds of a well known local hero. This piece being inscribed elicits special attention of scholars of this art as well as those of local history. In this connection the most distinctive and important item is the huge sized rumal from Jammu depicting the theme of Sikandar Nama, and it has got an elaborate inscription as well as identificatory inscribed labels for the scenes represented.
The embroidery art form of the Chamba rumal originated in the erstwhile princely hill states of Chamba, Kangra, Basohli and nearby states which now form part of the Himachal Pradesh Though practiced throughout the region, the craft came to be associated specifically with Chamba owing to the patronage given by the rulers of the area. Artistic styles of Pahari miniature painting was reflected in the rumals of the 18th-19th century A.D.
Chamba rumals were ultimately done by the upper class women of royalty. They had the use of the trained miniature artist who would draw the theme of the rumal in charcoal and provide guiding colour schemes. The themes were religious especially Krishna theme. Fabric was handspun unbleached mulmul or fine Khaddar. Embroidery was done in double satin stitch called dorukha. No rumal was in single colour. The stitch was carried forwards and backwards alternately and was done simultaneously on both sides of the cloth. Rumals were expressions of the life of the common man.
Phulkari literally means flower working which was one time used for word embroidery but in course of time word “Phulkari” became restricted to embroidered head cloth/odini. Simple and sparsely embroidered odini and shawls made for everyday use are called Phulkaris whereas closely and all covered over are made for special and ceremonial occasions are known as Baghs (Garden).
|Phulkari, Embroidery with silk thread,
Early 20th century A.D., Punjab
Click to enlarge
Phulkaris and Baghs were worn by ladies all over Punjab during marriage festivals and other joyous occasions. They were embroidered by ladies themselves for their own use and use of other family members and not for sale in the market. Thus it was purely a domestic art which not only satisfied their inner urge for creation but brought color into day to day life. In a way it was true folk art. Custom had grown to give Phulkaris and Baghs to brides at the time of marriages. Some best Phulkaris and Baghs are known to have been made in Hazara and Chakwal areas of Northern Punjab.
Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. There is reference of Phulkari in Vedas, Mahabharta, Guru Granth Sahib and folk songs of Punjab.
Main characteristic of Phulkari embroidery is use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with colored silken thread. Punjabi women has created innumerable alluring and interesting designs and patterns by her skillful manipulation of the darn stitch. The base khaddar cloth used in Western Punjab is finer from those of Central Punjab. Black/blue are not preferred in Western Punjab, whereas white is not used in East Punjab. In West Punjab, 2 or 3 piecees of cloth are first diapered and joined together. In East Punjab, they are joined together first and then embroidered.
In Phulkari embroidery ornaments the cloth whereas in Bagh it covers every inch of entire ground so that the base cloth is not visible. The end portion of pallav of Phulkari have separate panels of exquisite workmanship of striking design.
Most favoured color is red and its shades because Bagh and Phulkari are used during marriage and other festivals. Red is considered auspicious by Hindus/Sikhs. Other colors are brown, blue , black, white. White was used in Bagh used by elderly ladies. Silk thread in strands came from Kashmir, Afghanistan and Bengal. Best quality silk came from China.
No religious subject or darbar scenes were embroidered as in Chamba Rumal. Phulkari encompassed life of villages. Creative ability of Punjabi women has produced innumerable and intricate geometrical patterns. However most motifs taken from life existing all around. Wheat and barley stalk with ears is a common motif.
The word Thangka means something that can be rolled and unrolled. It is a painted scroll, generally in vertical format. The painted banners were carried by traveling Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims on their journey to far off places. Many Thangka paintings made in China and Tibet were to be found in Buddhist monasteries situated on the border of India with Tibet and China. The Thangka found in India from Tibet is not older than 10th century. It is widely believed that when Indian Buddhist monks like Padamasambhva and Dipankar Srigyan went to Tibet for preaching Buddhism, they took manuscripts and a collection of pictures with them. These pictures left an everlasting impression on Tibetan painters from which a new art form of Thangka painting rose. Lay devotees and common people commission the painting of Thangka, esoteric and mystic in content, to overcome disease, misery and sorrows, according to their belief and faith. Broadly five categories of themes are found painted or embroidered on thangkas. Enlightened beings, viz. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, arhats and the great adepts (Mahasiddas), Ista Devatas, dharmapalas, mandalas and illustrations of the dharma portraying the totality of the Buddhist teaching.
Thangkas are usually painted on pieces of canvas. The canvas pieces are dipped in lukewarm water with glue and lime and then stretched on a thin frame made of wood or bamboo to dry. The surface is then rubbed several times with a smooth object and sprinkled with lime water until it becomes ready for painting. The day of commencement of the painting and the time of drawing the eyes are fixed for an auspicious day according to the forecast made by an astrologer. A flat stick is attached to the top of Thangka to hang it and a heavier cylindrical stick at the bottom for keeping it hanging straight and firm. Thangkas normally generally have a border all around sewn to the edges of the painting. Thangkas also have a veil and ribbons.