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A joy for locals, not tourists
With a feast of dance, music and crafts, the heritage festival is a bonanza for the locals but where are the tourists, asks Jangveer Singh
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ATIALVIS, starved of good music or dance since years, are getting a trifle spoilt by the feast of classical music and dance. They have access to performance of maestros, without spending, at the Quila Mubarak complex or the old Moti Bagh Palace. From Shiv Kumar Sharma and Viswamohan Bhat to Pak qawwals Farid Ayaz and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, all performances were well received.
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A joy for locals, not tourists

With a feast of dance, music and crafts, the heritage festival is a bonanza for the locals but where are the tourists, asks Jangveer Singh

A view of the Crafts Mela in the Sheesh Mahal Complex
A view of the Crafts Mela in the Sheesh Mahal Complex

PATIALVIS, starved of good music or dance since years, are getting a trifle spoilt by the feast of classical music and dance. They have access to performance of maestros, without spending, at the Quila Mubarak complex or the old Moti Bagh Palace.

From Shiv Kumar Sharma and Viswamohan Bhat to Pak qawwals Farid Ayaz and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, all performances were well received. One could not but observe the lack of much outside attendance at the heritage festival. Having two performers in such a situation often means most people get up during the second half of the show either to prepare their food or put the kids to sleep.

A showcase in the medal gallery at Sheesh Mahal
A showcase in the medal gallery at Sheesh Mahal.

A tree chandelier in Sheesh Mahal Museum
A tree chandelier in Sheesh Mahal Museum.
Photos by Rajesh Sachar

Though it might be off-putting for the purists, Punjabis proved, once again, that pop and glamour attract them the most. Youngsters could be seen in droves outside the venue of the fashion show, the only show requiring an invite during the entire festival. Collections of Satya Paul and Rina Latif were on view.

Similarly, the pop concert saw thousands of youngsters dancing to the music of new craze Rabbi Shergill and Sukhbir.

The Crafts Mela proved to be the icing on the cake, with residents turning up in droves, adding to the picnic atmosphere. For the mela, Phulkari colours were used. It was spread over the old 'water tank'' of the Sheesh Mahal palace.

A Lakshman jhoola completed the effect. A promenade of hanging parandis, besides slithers of bright cloth and booths in earthen mud and bamboo, and an amphitheatre hosting performances from all over the country added to the ambience.

The mela saw a surfeit of purchasing, even though the fact that handlooms got picked up the most was not very heartening for painters and other handicraft sellers. The artisans are however happy at getting free booths as well as lodging facilities. Women from the city did justice to the embroidered suits brought from places like Kolkata, Jaipur and Chandheri, while miniatures painters like Vinod Kumar Bharadwaj remained optimistic saying they would wait for awarness of their medium to pick up. With the mela averaging 10,000 ticketed visitors every day, it is set to become a mini Surajkund. It could do wonders to draw tourists to the city.

Company art

The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi brought "Company" art to the mela by organising an exhibition in the Sheesh Mahal complex. The exhibition showcased examples of art after the advent of the East India Company. The intermingling of styles as Indian artists adjusted to the new aesthetics of realism in miniatures was on display until February 27. Particularly striking are miniatures of Queen and King Edward in Indian dress from the Punjab School and Amjad Ali Shah from the Company School, besides a lithograph of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Emily Eden.

In the first one sees the use of rustic Punjabi colours. Amjad Ali Shah's portrait signifies the break from the 'frozen in time' quality of Mughal miniatures. In Ranjit Singh's lithograph, one gets to see the Maharaja as he must have been instead of the overdone Ranjit Singh we are treated to in calender art.

Local interest

During the festival, the Medal Gallery, the largest collection of medals in world which was acquired by Maharaja Bhupindra Singh, has been thrown open to the public. Visitors to the Durbar Hall museum in the Qila Mubarak complex will be astounded by the sheer array of chandeliers weighing several tonnes hanging from its roof. The chandeliers were purchased en bloc by Maharaja Mahindra Singh from a Calcutta showroom in a fit of pique at not being recognised.

There is much more, including a beautiful painted chamber, on view at the Sheesh Mahal museum, besides the fun of just walking around the old city.

No planning

With so much up for grabs in the festival, it is a surprise that tourists have still not taken to it. There is no tourist presence from outside the state. This is mainly because tour operators have still not been persuaded to sell Patiala. The operators have their own constraints. "The programme of the festival, including performances, needs to finalised and circulated both internationally and nationally at least six months in advance to get bookings", says a prominent tour operator.

The crafts mela, similarly, has to be vigorously publicised in Punjab and nearby areas. Regional tourism has also not caught up since the State Tourism Department has failed to come up with any package for tourists. No attempt could be made to get people from Chandigarh to visit Patiala through special tourist bus packages with optional stay facilities. For Patiala, the waiting game for the elusive tourist has just begun.

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