Ceremonial Cover (Rumal) Depicting the Rasalila

The embroidery depicts the popular story of Krishna and the milkmaids engaged in a dance in which he assumes as many bodies as there are maidens (here four) in order to complete the circle of the dance. The entire composition is surrounded by a traditional floral border. The embroidery is identical on both sides.

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Geography:
Made in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, India, Asia

Date:
c. Late 19th century

Medium:
Cotton with silk embroidery

Dimensions:
Diameter: 27 inches (68.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1991-48-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Ann McPhail and Marion Boulton Stroud, 1991

Social Tags [?]

There are currently no user tags associated with this object.


[Add Your Own Tags]

Label:
The Gita Govinda, a love poem written in the ancient Indic language Sanskrit, was often used as a source for the embroidered decoration on rumals from the Chamba Valley. The poem's description of a rasamandala, or circle dance, was especially appealing in that it allowed the embroiderer great scope in design. When compared with other rumals depicting rasamandalas, this cover stands out as being particularly unusual and imaginative in its presentation: the circular form of the dance is reflected in the shape of the cloth, while the four figures of the god Krishna and the four gopis (cowherdesses) are dressed in colorful and elaborately detailed costumes and jewelry.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Chamba rumals, or ceremonial cloths, made between the early eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth in the Himachal Pradesh region are among the most charming embroideries produced in India. Their pictorial styles vary, with some designs, drawn by professional artists and embroidered by ladies at court, resembling miniature paintings, and others, worked by women in the villages, demonstrating a more "primitive," folk tradition. These cloths, which were used as wrappings for gifts exchanged between the families of a bride and groom, as offerings to deities, or as hangings placed behind religious statues or above altars, were most commonly embroidered with scenes from the life of the Hindu god Krishna. This example from the Museum's rich collection of traditional Indian textiles depicts the popular story of Krishna and the milkmaids engaged in a dance in which he assumes as many bodies as there are maidens (here four) in order to complete the circle of the dance. The entire composition is surrounded by a traditional floral border. Worked with silk thread on unbleached cotton, the embroidery is identical on both sides. Dilys Blum, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 79.