Padma Shri Lalita Vakil Saved The Dying Art And Literature Of Chamba Rumal Embroidery

Stories from Society By Archana Bhakta | 2 min read

India, a country filled with diverse cultures and a vibrant history, has so much to offer in terms of food, language, culture, art, crafts, and whatnot. Lalita Vakil reimbursed the art & craft of Chamba Rumal for its contribution to preserving the heritage.

With such a mega stallion, many of our crafts & arts have been lost in the air. Although there is no one at fault, one can blame the advancement of technology and a little bit of ourselves for staying away from our beautiful culture.

But Lalita Vakil, from Himachal Pradesh, revived and devoted her life to the embroidery of Chamba Rumal.

Lalit Vakil’s story improves with time, having been through adversity but still shining brightly like the sun.

Lailita vakil: “A new family, new beginnings.”

Lalita Vakil
Image Source – Wikipedia

Lalita Vakil is a well-known Indian embroidery artist who has contributed to the preservation and promotion of Chamba Rumal, a traditional form of handkerchief embroidery from the Himachal Pradesh district of Chamba.

She grew up in an impoverished household in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. Already coming from a less financially stable family, she had to face many hardships and struggles in life. Things started to get worse when her mother passed away, leaving Lalita and her siblings behind. Her father soon remarried, and things escalated for worse.

With poverty and deprivation, Lalita Vakil saw dreadful times. She completed secondary school with a lot of hard work, but throughout the process, she learned and observed many things, such as knitting, embroidery, and sewing, and learned these crafts.

But, after she got her 10th result, she was married off at the age of 15.
With it, her career, aspirations, and dreams were crushed. But it was treasured. Surprisingly, her new family has many artists, including her husband.

Image Source – Wikipedia

Her husband, Manohar Singh Vakil, was associated with the Sir JJ School of Art in Bombay. Her mother-in-law encouraged her to make use of her craft skills. At the age of 50, she was able to fly the Chamba Rumal to greater heights.

Lalita Vakil did a one-year diploma in cutting and a year in embroidery to hone her skills. She has received the esteemed “Padma Shri” award for elevating this age-old art form.

She also received the Shipl Gurur Award in 2009, the Nari Shakti Puruskar Award in 2017, and the Padma Shri Award in 2022 for reviving the Chamba Rumal embroidery.

Champa Rumal

Image Source – Wikipedia

The Himachal Pradesh hill station of Chamba, where it has been practised for centuries, gives the Chamba Rumal its name. Rumal is the Persian word for a handkerchief. Chamba Rumal, on the other hand, is a square-sized embroidery handkerchief. Lalita Vakil catered to and pioneered the art and culture of Chamab Rumal, growing its inheritance across the nation.

With bright and vibrant embroidery on a plain white handkerchief, it is an important accessory in a woman’s wedding. The themes are based on Ramayana, Krishna Leela, Mahabharata, indulging other epic tales.
Lalita Vakil reinvented and created a set of patrons in Chamaba Rumal. Apart from making new generations of patterns and designs, she wanted to make them contemporary and global.

Image Source – Wikipedia

She also wanted to broaden the Chamba Rumal embroidery technique by making handkerchiefs for caps, sarees, suits, dupattas, shawls, and a variety of other multi-piece garments. Lalita also did not compromise on the patterns; she added floral and setback fashion designs.
Most importantly, she brought refinement to the craft.

Chamba rumal (handkerchief) is a dying art that was promoted primarily by women of Chamba’s royal family for dowries as an important gift. And Lalita Vakil gives it a vibe by recreating its patrons for different uses.
The history and tradition of Chamba Rumal go way back to the royal empires. It has a rich, long history that was customised for various auspicious reasons, such as weddings, festivals, etc.

Lalita Vakil sought her creativity and insights to revive the old Chamba Rumal and give it a breakthrough.

If you liked reading this story, you can also read about To Preserve Dying Rajasthani Crafts This Sister Duo Added Cool Shades To Them – Patwa Art Is Now A Gen Z Thing

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