A village goes global
For a fortnight in February, Surajkund becomes the address of master craftsmen from rural India. This year the added attraction has been the participation of Thailand as well as SAARC countries. Surajkund Mela is already a global affair attracting foreign tourists, says
Geetanjali Gayatri, but there’s more on the anvil. Haryana’s crafts bazaar is readying to spread its wings abroad, with Qatar as
its first halt.
A replica of the Charminar at the entrance of the mela ground.
high on the crest of
winter, a vibrant spring breezes in to paint Surajkund in the
united colours of diversity.
Come February and rural India comes
together at this village in Haryana’s Faridabad district to
celebrate traditional crafts and skills of its artisans and
tradition and embodying the spirit of celebration, the annual
Surajkund Mela, held from February 1 to 15 every year, unveils
the faceless artists behind the exquisite crafts.
As rural India
basks in the warmth of admiration, the venue — some 8 km from
South Delhi — comes to life with the hustle and bustle of
enthusiastic shoppers, the resonating rhythms of folk theatre,
the ballads of singing minstrels along with the most delightful
handicraft collection from all over the country.
fascination for art connoisseurs and distinctive shoppers, the
mela is a canvas with the colours of the rainbow splashed
against a skyline dotted with thatched roof platforms especially
created to reflect the ambience of rural India where the art
works thrive and bloom.
the dust of Delhi was born India’s celebrated craftsmela,
the Surajkund Crafts Mela, which began in 1987 though it
took off as a platform for local artists and craftsmen in
1981. From being a diversion for the denizens of Delhi, it
has gradually made its way up the ladder to become an
event that attracts global attention.
The sun pool from which Surajkund derives its name.
derives its name from an ancient amphitheatre, the sun
pool, which dates back to the 10th Century. This was the
time when tribal chieftains were gaining supremacy. One
clan that stood out in the chronicles of history was that
of the Tomars, who were sun worshippers.
by this terrain, Raja Suraj Pal, one of the chieftains,
chose to build a sun temple and a sun pool here. But times
changed, and the clan vanished. The temple was in ruins.
But, the amphitheatre sun pool continues to stand even
today. It is after this sun pool that the complex came to
be christened Surajkund.
that Surajkund lay close to Delhi but remained unaffected
by urban intrusions was yet another dimension that
attracted the tourism organisation of the state. It covers
40 hectares. While providing urban attractions for the
holiday-maker, it retains its suburban serenity.
new this year
Crafts from Thailand and SAARC countries
were a big draw
the crafts of more than 300 national and state
crafts from SAARC nations and Thailand
aroma of traditional foods, especially Hyderabadi food
and cuisine from Thailand
park with camel safari
competition to commemorate 2550th year of
Mahaparnirvana of Lord Buddha.
workshop to guide the craftsmen in product
folk dances and theatre activities at the open-air
theatre, Natyashala every evening. This year’s
cultural programme includes Tribhangi Dance of South
As folk artists
sway to the sound of beating drums and wafting notes of
melodious music, the organisers, Surajkund Mela Authority
comprising the Union Ministry of Tourism and Textiles and
Haryana Tourism, have tried to capture the nuances of village
life down to the minutest details — man with a bioscope, a
bullock cart, a village well, and other such rural images are
aesthetically placed around thatched huts with mud walls
carrying geometrical motifs.
Andhra Pradesh has
been chosen as this year’s theme state. And, standing up for
the state and greeting the visitors is a scaled-down replica of
the majestic Charminar.
The dances by
colourfully dressed performers from Andhra Pradesh are a visual
treat as musical notes lend a zing to the air. Brij ki Holi from
Mathura, Bhanchari’s nagara shows, Rajasthan’s
kalbelia-sapera, Punjab’s high-spirited giddha, Haryana’s
ragini together whip up magic.
virtually an oasis in a desert, away from the maddening crowds
of the city with nothing but a shooting range as its neighbour.
On display is quite an assortment — from the Phulkari of
Punjab to the Kanjivarams and Dharmavarams of South India, the
cottons of West Bengal and Ikkat of Orrisa to the delicate
lacework from Goa and Kerala, Banjara and Banni embroidery of
Gujarat and Rajasthan to the Kalamkari and Madhubani paintings
of Andhra, Karnataka and Bihar, sea shell decorations,
glittering brassware, tempting pearls et al.
longest ever list of national awardees, 320 this year, the mela,
which has something to suit every pocket and please visitors of
all age groups, has transformed this village in the boondocks of
Haryana into a tourist-haven.
This year an added
attraction has been the participation of Thailand besides
representatives of the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC), putting Surajkund on the international map.
artificial flowers, perfumed candles, handcrafted jewellery and
stone-studded figurines are among the items on display from
Thailand, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The organisers hope
to rope in greater foreign participation in the coming years.
Phansomboon from Thailand says, "This is the first time my
country has come to this mela. We have had a lot of sales on the
first day and the young in particular are interested. While I
have brought stone-silver jewellery this time round, this visit
is essentially to gauge what the visitors are interested
While the stalls
of the SAARC countries stand out distinctly given the trendy
wares on offer, the Indian stalls too look attractive with their
traditional and ethnic displays. While Niyaz Ahmad’s rich
Banarasi sarees adorn one hut, Gopal Prasad’s miniature
painting on mustard seeds has drawn big crowds.
A little anxious,
Manjuben Manubhai Chiara has a tough time dealing with
customers. The mela is her maiden venture outside her home state
and she has practically no experience in business. "My ajrakh
print sarees have invited a lot of attention. I have had a
regular flow of customers but they haggle too much. They don’t
realise that we are only charging them for the time we have
spent to make each of our pieces. Since this is my first attempt
at doing business on such a large scale, I am a little
nervous," she admits.
Even as the marble
inlay work and intricate wood work have you under a spell, the
aroma of Hyderabadi biryani, ethnic Punjabi cuisine, spicy
Rajasthani food et all fills the air. The mela also offers a
mini food festival of sorts. Some of the popular food traditions
arrive from all over to tickle the palate.
While the better
part of the food court is an elaborate spread of pulihora,
dum biryani, mirchi bhajji from Andhra, the Thai cuisine
with its novel eats, Thai corn cake and grilled satay, has
caught the fancy of many a visitor at the mela. From rajmah-chawal
and kadi-chawal, which seemed the hot favorites, to
momos and chowmein, the food choice, too, is endless.
"The idea of
hosting the mela is to recreate a pristine rural ambience for
foreign and domestic tourists, educate the patrons of arts and
crafts on the skills involved in art creation, to introduce
crafts and craftsmen directly to the buyers and to identify,
nurture and preserve the languishing crafts of the
country," says MD, Tourism, Keshni Anand Arora.
For the shoppers,
it can’t get any better with Surajkund mela having some of the
best bargains to offer. You can shop till you drop. And, if
shopping is not your cup of tea, there’s a lot more the mela
offers in terms of theatre, folk dances and musical evenings.
The natyashala and the chaupals are forever
pulsating as dancers transport the visitors to their home
The mela provides a rural setting with mud-baked hutments
Exquisite craftsmanship on display at Surajkund
supervision of Minister of Tourism, Haryana, Kiran Chaudhary,
the Surajkund mela is all ready to set foot on foreign soil.
Another feather in Haryana’s cap, this opportunity has been
extended by the Hashan Ali Hussain Al-Nimah, Cultural Advisor to
the Amir of Qatar, who visited the mela recently.
coveted crafts bazaar will now be held at Qatar. It can’t get
any bigger than this. We are going to have a painting workshop
on Lord Buddha to commemorate the 2550th anniversary of
Mahaprinirvana of Lord Buddha. The mela has become a global
affair attracting foreign and Indian tourists. In fact, the
Surajkund mela is the best way to give exposure to our artisans.
They come from varied backgrounds and live here as one. The mela
gives the visitors a peek into the profile of rural India. With
this offer of hosting the mela on similar lines in Qatar, India
is bound to become the flavour of the world in the coming
times," she stated.
On the cards, at
Surjakund, is a drive-in theatre. "We want to make
Surajkund happening all through the year. What better way than
making a drive-in theatre where people can watch movies sitting
in their own cars. Also, a plan to introduce eco adventure is
also being worked out," Chaudhary says.
After a day of
fun, food, frolic and shopping at one go, as the sun goes down
in the distance, the sound of music and drums begins to peter
off as the curtain falls for the day. You leave the place
believing that the magic of each craft is hidden in the fingers
of the craftsmen. Their joy in creating a masterpiece, and skill
in perfecting the ancient rhythms of rural existence is