Soak into India’s art and cultural ethos at Surajkund this Valentine’s Day

Chhattisgarh is the theme state at Surajkund International Crafts Fair 2015. Seen here is the massive entry gate created at the fair grounds. Photo: Amit Sengupta
Chhattisgarh is the theme state at Surajkund International Crafts Fair 2015. Seen here is the massive entry gate created at the fair grounds. Photo: Amit Sengupta

So what are you doing this Valentine’s Day?

This Valentine’s Day, give the fancy restaurants and glitzy malls a miss and try something completely different. Drive down to Surajkund International Crafts Fair, just 25 kms from central Delhi with your beloved to witness an amazing concoction of art and culture and ethnic ambience.

It’s very rare that you are in Delhi and not ever heard of this massive fair which continues for almost half a month every year in Surajkund in this part of the country. I gathered enough valor in giving it a visit on a Sunday, the immediate day after Delhi’s election date. As expected, it was teeming with tens of thousands of visitors and tourists who had come to sample a taste of some of the best local and global crafts products for sale and display. For the records, the fair witnesses a million foot print during this long fortnight (1-15 February).

Wrought iron artifacts from Chhattisgarh at display in one of the stalls. Photo: Amit Sengupta
Wrought iron artifacts from Chhattisgarh at display in one of the stalls. Photo: Amit Sengupta

For those of you, who still do not know, Chhattisgarh is the theme state for this year’s 29th Surajkund International Crafts Fair organised by Haryana Tourism Corporation and Surajkund Mela Authority. So, I entered the fair to witness the state’s best craftspersons selling their products to a somewhat national audience who may have otherwise not visited the state. Once you step inside the fair ground, after getting past the stringent security checks and chaotic traffic arrangements (yes, there are different parking lots made by the Haryana Police which are separate for media, public and VIP officials. The general parking lot is a couple of kilometers away from the ground and there were auto ferrying people to the ground), you are taken aback with the ethnic and tribal ambience created by the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.

The state’s tourism board has amply worked and put in efforts to re create the traditional and rural ambience through some popular attractions such as Malhar Gate, Terracotta Art, Bastar Art, Devi Jhula and Wall Paintings. There were artifacts on traditional crafts from the state and a model of the state’s ancient Lakshman temple.

Artifacts from Chhattisgarh at display in one of the stalls. Photo: Amit Sengupta
Artifacts from Chhattisgarh at display in one of the stalls. Photo: Amit Sengupta

I decided to peek through some of the artifacts at display. These were brought by crafts men from the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. How is the business doing, I asked a seller? “It has been really good. I have sold at least Rs. 70,000 worth of bell metal and wrought iron artifacts. There has been a steady turnout of visitors and I am expecting to sell another Rs. 150,000 worth of products,” the craftsperson said.

More such artifacts from Chhattisgarh.  Photo: Amit Sengupta
More such artifacts from Chhattisgarh.
Photo: Amit Sengupta

If you are lucky, you can also catch a glimpse of Chhattisgarh’s ethnic tribes and shake a leg with them and get a selfie. Once you are done with a lazy stroll through hordes of crafts stalls, visit the traditional forest medicine centre. You get to see how this tribal population has managed to conserve their ancient tradition and practice of using medicinal herbs for healthcare.

This is not all. Enthusiastic craftspersons were found selling ethnic ornaments, paintings, wooden products and much more. You will be spoilt for choice, if you are planning to buy something for your loved ones. Grab whichever you want and in sufficient quantity. Feeling a bit tired, I decided to have a chaat masala and kulfi. The organizers have kept a separate food court inside the fair ground for all hungry souls.

Chhattisgarh is not the only state competing for your attention at Surajkund this year. There’s quite a sizeable display of artifacts, paintings, silk products from India’s states of Karnataka, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. And remember, I said, it’s an international crafts fair. You would also get stalls of Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan besides of course, Nepal and Pakistan showing up an emphatic showcase of their country’s rich art and cultural products.

Steady crowd at a stall by Kyrgyzstan.   Photo: Amit Sengupta
Steady crowd at a stall by Kyrgyzstan.
Photo: Amit Sengupta
Flutes for sale at the Armenian stall. Photo: Amit Sengupta
Flutes for sale at the Armenian stall. Photo: Amit Sengupta

If you plan to stay longer in the evening with your beloved, you can relish a dash of art and cultural performances right at the venue. During the initial days of the fair, there was a unique display of Chhattisgarh’s ethnic costume wear in a modern fashion show avatar. “The state was praised for giving a modern and formal twist to its handloom and Bunkar style garments, created by the Chhattisgarh Apex Handloom Federation and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).

Ethnic twist: Fashion show at Surajkund. Photo: Haryanaabtak
Ethnic twist: Fashion show at Surajkund. Photo: Haryanaabtak

The event, inaugurated by the Managing Director of Haryana Tourism and Chief Administrator Sumita Misra, was followed by ‘Gaur’ dance of the Madia tribe of Bastar in Chhattisgarh,” said a PTI release. Pity, I couldn’t witness it when it happened. But every evening, there’s something new happening.

A large display board playing a wildlife video of Chhattisgarh at the enclosed arena of Chhattisgarh Tourism information centre inside the fair grounds. Photo: Amit Sengupta
A large display board playing a wildlife video of Chhattisgarh at the enclosed arena of Chhattisgarh Tourism information centre inside the fair grounds. Photo: Amit Sengupta

This valentine’s day, make sure, you head off to Surajkund and soak in India’s some of the best traditional and cultural ambience.  And yes! You can get your e-ticket for the fair here.

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