Surajkund International Craft Mela, the craft carnival

Surajkund Mela, the craft carnival

Surajkund Craft Mela brings together are from across the country. It is a visually captivating riot of colours for culture connoisseurs

Living in Delhi has always been a pleasure. And when it comes to cultural affairs, the national capital is known for being a hub. Every weekend I look forward to something new and exciting. On one such balmy Sunday morning, along with my husband, I zipped past the old Tughlakabad fort to reach Surajkund village in Faridabad, Haryana.

A larger than life kund with a step well sits comfortably, attracting tourists and families from in and around Delhi. Constructed in the 10th century by King Suraj Pal of the Tomar dynasty, the kund is built against the scenic backdrop of Aravalli Hills. The embankment of the kund is in the shape of amphitheater that makes it a picnic attraction for many. Named after the sun temple that sits on the western bank of the kund, the whole place looks surreal in winters. After a hearty sunbath, we moved to the venue of Surajkund mela, which adorns a rustic veil.

Celebrating culture
Visited by people from far and wide, Surajkund comes to life with the rhythm of folk dances, beats of music, and colourful handicrafts from across the country and some South Asian countries. Myriad hues of colour was splashed everywhere in the form of umbrellas, canopies, banners and posters depicting the onset of this two-week long festival.

At the entrance of the venue, we saw school children getting down from their school buses to witness the cultural fiesta. Holding packets of wafers, chocolates and other edibles, children moved chirping in queues towards the ticket counter. College students, families, couples headed towards the ticket counter to get a valid entry to the venue. Aunties held number of shopping bags, as if they were all set for a shopping marathon. The festival brings together more than 400 national and state awarded craft persons from whole of India and SAARC nations. You will not get designer stuff at the Surajkund mela, but for sure you will bring home the very essence of India in the form of handlooms and handicrafts.

Sneaking ahead of the crowd, we made our way to the entrance, where a huge cat designed in Bastar art form welcomed us. The Bastar art is a tribal art form from Chattisgarh, which also happens to be a tribe-powered state. The slender figurine that was made by hammering the iron stands tall at the entrance, welcoming the guests to the pastoral grounds of Surajkund. After getting frisked at the entrance, we finally made our way to the mela. Standing awestruck, I looked around to see people and gaudy rural marketplace. We didn’t know where to start from, so we asked the organisers some details about the event. He informed us that the event was first held in 1981. The main agenda of the festival is to give a strong platform to the Indian craftsmen to display their work of art to a larger audience. The mela brings together talented folk artists, weavers, painters, sculptors and craftsmen who bring their colourful products from across the country. Every year, a theme state is chosen and the mela venue is decorated featuring the prominent art forms from that particular state. Since the theme state for the year was Rajasthan, you can imagine the vibrancy it added to the whole set up. Moving ahead, we noticed Rajasthani puppets, bandhani (tie and dye) fabric, and artists adorning the patent Rajasthani pagdi. The mela is nothing but a larger than life haat, spread in acres of land. The spread was unending; exquisite pieces of art like textiles, paintings, pottery, stone-work, lac work, ivory, cane work and terracotta products filled the venue.

Fair to cherish
I was amazed to see how artists create such marvelous pieces with their delicate hands. The sight of some exquisite marble inlay works caught my attention. Coming from a family of artists, this artisan from Agra told us how his ancestors were part of the artists group who actually made the Taj Mahal. Imtiaz informed, casting inlay (engraving of precious stones in marble) involved long hours of concentration. He comes from a family that practices traditional style of inlay using precious and semi precious stones like black onyx, turquoise, lapis lazuli and many more such stones.
His stall was filled with beautiful table tops, idols of deities, flower vases, trays and many such products. I picked up a beautiful jewellery box with beautiful floral patterns on the cover. Till today I keep my most precious earings in the box.

Since I am forever fascinated by handicrafts, the mela made me go crazy. Shopping is all fun, especially when husband is bearing all the expenses. So I picked some cane chairs, lac bangles and chanderi silk sarees from the mela. The craft mela is not just limited to the exhibition of artwork; it also enthralls the visitors with many cultural performances. Our next stop was at Natyashala, an open-air theatre, where folk dances and musical evenings are conducted. Dressed in black finery, lovely kaalbelia (snake dance) perfomers dance to the rustic Rajasthani tunes. We noticed audience enjoying the dance performance and children walked up to the stage and danced along. After this visual treat, we moved to have some lip smacking rural cuisine. Rural food adds a new dimesion to the mela. You can relish delicacies that are not readily available otherwise. We binged on litti choka at the Bihar stall and the Rajasthani delicay kair sangri and gatte ki sabzi.

After shopping and eating to my heart’s content, it was time to bid the mela a good bye. There can be no better time than this, when winter turns briefly into spring, to witness this cultural gala. Great ambience, mouth-watering cuisine, finest artwork, all await you at Surajkund mela. So what are you waiting for? Go for it, else you may miss something really extraordinary.

Mela at glance

How to reach
Located at a distance of 8 km from South Delhi in Faridabad, Surajkund is easily accessible by road. The nearest airport is at Delhi. The site of the fair is situated at a distance 25 km from Indira Gandhi International Airport. Reach Delhi by SpiceJet and hop on the Haryana state run buses from Baba Kharak Singh Marg, near Connaught Place.
Surajkund Crafts Mela 2013
*Organized by the Haryana Tourism Department, the Surajkund Craft Mela is held annually from 1st to 15th February.
* This year the theme state is Karnataka .
*The spice bowl of  India, Karnataka  is best known for monuments like Gol Gumbaj, World Heritage Site Hampi, spices, coffee, handicrafts and handloom.
*If you are game for some authentic North Karnataka cuisine and coffee, block your dates for the festival.

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