Celebrated during: 1st Feb to 16th February – every year
Main attractions: Rich showcase of regional and international crafts and traditions
Suraj Kund Mela — About eight kilometers from New Delhi in the state of Haryana lies the village of Surajkund. As spring glides in, full of warmth and vibrancy leaving the cold and grey winter behind, Surajkund dons itself in colourful traditional crafts of India. Craftsmen from all over the country assemble here during the first fortnight of February for an annual fair known as Surajkund Crafts Mela.
Conceived in 1987, the Mela (fair) was a brainchild of Tourism department of the state of Haryana. It provides a platform for the artists to share their art with the common man. While craftsmen from all over India participate, one particular state is focused upon each year. The mela also attracts lakhs of visitors, both for the amazing range of interesting crafts it showcases as well as the relaxing rural ambience of the mela grounds. The fair also provides a meeting ground for the talented painters, weavers, sculptors and craftsmen form all over India who exhibit their creations and the arts and crafts lovers who flock here to admire and purchase these creations.
Surajkund owes its name and perhaps its very existence to an ancient amphitheater sun pool dating back to the 10th century, the remains of which can still be seen here. Historians tell us that this area once fell under the domain of the Tomar clan. Raja Suraj Pal, one of the chieftains of this clan of sun worshipers had a sun pool built in this area. It is believed that a temple also stood on its periphery. It is after this sun pool that this complex has been named Surajkund.
This picturesque site, surrounded by the Aravalli range, is enlivened with the arrival of master craftsmen from different parts of the country in the month of February. As one enters the mela, one is greeted by a ‘living’ Indian village. The uneven, unpaved paths lead to innumerable thatched platforms that provide glimpses of the exquisite and skillful paintings, textiles, wood stock, ivory work, pottery, terracotta, stonework, papier-mâché, lac work and cane and grass work. There is an amazing variety and diversity in each craft.
As one moves into this colorful world of Indian handicrafts many beautiful and intricate paintings catch the eye. At one stall you will find Kalamkari, which is done on cloth with a swab dipped in paint and given a fine point. The hairline fineness of lines in each painting tells the story of the deep devotion of the painter to this art form. Mythological tales of religious figures and local deities are themes depicted on these wall hangings.
How to reach Suraj Kund Mela
Surajkund lies in the Faridabad district on the Delhi – Agra national highway. Surajkund is 8 kms from South Delhi. Special transport link the Mela ground to major bus stops in Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad.
Mela begins from 9.30 a.m. and closes at 7.00 p.m. each evening from 1st to 15th February every year.
Tourist cluster around the textiles, which are displayed by craftswomen, attired in colorful dresses that they have created themselves. The tie and dye and laharia (striped) designs on silk, georgette and cotton scarves, veils and saris flutter in the gentle breeze attracting the attention of all. In this craft, the design is obtained by tying up garments in a set pattern before dyeing it. Shawls, blouse pieces, dress materials, cushion covers and wall hangings from Gujarat, textile block printing, chikankari, a breathtakingly fine needlework embroidery on crisp cloth, and typical Kashmiri patterns embroidered on wool and silk known as crewel work are put on display here. Bed sheets, cloth pieces, dress materials and saris can be admired and purchased at affordable prices.
Brass and metal crafts also form a prominent part of the mela. Life-size temple idols, human forms, horses, carriages and animals of metal and brass made with perfection and decorated with fine lines will delight your eyes. Besides these, sculptures in marble and soapstone as well as marble and ivory inlay work, woodcarvings are also available.
Some craftsmen have perfected the art of making beautiful creations of Sikki grass. Under their nimble fingers the harsh Sikki grass acquires new and joyful forms like wall hangings, toys, baskets, dolls and plats.
If you need a change then you can delight in the folk dances and music of India. Men and women attired in gaily-patterned clothes perform folk dances and sing folk songs from different parts of the country. The atmosphere is filled with melodious music and will leave you spellbound. There are also magic shows, puppet shows and snake charmers to entertain you further.
The potter’s wheel always holds a special enchantment for visitors as the artisans mould entrancing pots and pans with their deft fingers. One can see several varieties of pottery, which include coiled pottery-a specialized art practiced in Manipur, in which a lump of clay is placed over a fixed wooden base and the artisan moves around it.
As you move out you can also see the weaver at his loom weaving durries (rugs), colorful terracotta and clay toys and papier-maché articles from Kashmir along with many other pieces of art, which will leave a long lasting impression in your mind. One feels as though one has left an important chapter of history and tradition behind.
The village ambiance at Suraj Kund Mela not only facilitates city-dwellers to get a taste of village life but it also helps the artisans to gain access to national and international buyers.