Embroidery seems to be the favourite pastime of pahari women, their nimble fingers busy with needle and thread on lazy afternoons. Houses in HP are replete with beautiful pieces like rumals (scarves), coverlets, handfans, caps, cholis (bodices), gaumukhi (prayer gloves) and such things.
The motifs are either from the traditional stock of miniature painting, the landscape or are innovations of the women themselves. This urge to create and live with beautiful pieces is very much a part of pahari culture.
The red and orange richly embroidered silk rumals (scarves) of Chamba are simply beautiful. The women of Chamba have traditionally made them for a 1000 years now. These rumals are actually small shawls meant to be used as head coverings.
They often depict scenes from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Raas-lila of Radha and Krishna. The embroidery is done in silk yarn on tussar cloth or fine cotton. The stitches are so fine that there is no evidence of knots or loose threads. As such both sides of the rumal are alike.
The art of leather embroidery in Himachal Pradesh, probably originated with the peasant class which has contributed the best specimens. It flourished under the patronage of the princes, rulers and the courtiers. Like other applied arts, embroidery reflects the cultural heritage of people.