09 February 2016

30th Surajkund Crafts Fair, Faridabad, Haryana


“Journalist and professional sociopath A.A. Gill wrote, If New York is a wise guy, Paris a coquette, Rome a gigolo and Berlin a wicked uncle, then London is an old lady who mutters and has the second sight. She is slightly deaf, and doesn't suffer fools gladly. Delhi, then, might be an ageing tsarina: ruthless, capricious, avaricious, paranoid – and fond of bright colours, pretty trinkets, and sex scandals. Like all grandes dames, she's showy, cash-splurging, hard to love, easy to photograph. Or perhaps, given her recent reinvention, she's more like a nouveau riche socialite – exactly as above, but on Twitter. The whole city jingles with theatricality, bling and the so-bad-it's-good.”
– Elizabeth Chatterjee, “Delhi: Mostly Harmless” (2013)


Traditional meets capitalism


Inimitably gorgeous paintings, meticulously designed sculptures, dexterously crafted handicrafts, mouthwatering delectable snacks, brilliant explosions of traditional attires and dance performances, myriads of vibrant colors, spellbinding sights, dizzying aromas and the rush of shopping frenzy-induced happiness amidst a terrifying deluge of aimless humanity at the very boundaries of Delhi – Surajkund Crafts Fair is back in its 30th edition and, quite gratifyingly, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the enchanting extravaganza of traditional handicrafts, matchless heritage and mouthwatering food on offer. And if the several kilometer-long traffic jams leading to-and-fro to the event location (especially on weekends!) are any evidence, the millions of spoiled-for-choice visitors thronging wide-eyed fascinated throughout the unbelievably enormous arena still cannot get enough!

I had previously been to the 28th edition (documented here – Pixelated Memories - 28th Surajkund Crafts Fair), and yet nothing could prepare me too for the incredibly immense crowds, the impeccably distinguished artistic designs and the delightful presence of at least a dozen traditional visual artists (“Behrupiya”) deviously attired in sparkling outfits and flawlessly masquerading as mythological divinities and traditional dancers.

This year, China-Japan and the newly-formed state of Telangana have been designated as the unique partner country(s) and theme state respectively for the enthralling cultural festival and consequentially present are several contingents of celebrated craftsmen-sculptors from these places to showcase their unparalleled artistic skills and cultural traditions.


Glitter glimmer - Dhokra tribal handicrafts (Chattisgarh)


Besides these, also in participation are craftsmen, sculptors, painters and handicraft merchandise traders from numerous other Indian states and countries like Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Seychelles, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Tunisia, Malaysia and Nepal – however, as the craftsmen from Seychelles pointed out, not every spellbound, bargain-hungry visitor is eager to purchase anything, and most of those wandering about are there just to absorb the impeccably vibrant sights, hypnotic sounds, vivid textures and multitude of tastes (not all of them mouthwatering or even worth contemplating upon though!) that the mesmerizing fair promises.

For the discerning, there are tremendously swamped craftsmen from Karnataka offering illustrious Bidri artworks (black copper very delicately inlaid with shimmering silver) and Channapatna toys (handcrafted wooden, painted with brilliant natural colors and polished to perfection), soft-spoken Japanese artists (enticing hundreds of selfie-seekers to wantonly click photos alongside gigantic kites imprinted with cartoon samurais), polished-looking Onyx traders from Pakistan (with massive vases almost as high as me!), conscientiously hard-nosed craftsmen from Chattisgarh offering consummate Dhokra artworks (thoroughly-detailed tribal figurines produced by pouring molten metal in baked clay casts), muscular Rajasthani traders with bristling mustaches lining the arena with exquisite cloth puppets in myriads of sartorial choices and accessory designs, diligent painters from Maharashtra selling the celebrated tribal Worli paintings depicted on earthen wares and showpieces, very kindly old ladies from Malaysia selling otherworldly beautiful handmade paintings and intermittently delving into impromptu drawing-painting lessons for little kids, and, among others, bored Bengali craftsmen stocking coarse jute accessories and simplistic decorative tapestries and religious figurines.


Colors of Surajkund - Channapatna wood toys (Karnataka)


Also in attendance are several hundred more merchants dealing in vibrantly multi-hued utensils, glittering hookahs, appealingly-patterned textiles, enviably intricate religious sculptures, temptingly fearsome tribal masks, delicate ornamental glass lamps and accessories, tantalizing papier-mâché accessories and hundreds of thousands of types of scintillating jewelry adorned with glittering beads and shimmering sparkles. Until last year, there were unmanned drones and numerous helicopters flying high above the immense premises for security purposes; impressively this time, the prime attraction available for joyrides are several helicopters conspicuously twirling about very low overhead and banking and swerving midair with dazzling impunity!

The only drawbacks, as far as I can gauge of course, are the gastronomic avenues – the overall quality of the assorted savories as well as the unsurprisingly exorbitant prices (a glass of jaljeera for Rs 50, a smaller-than-the-smallest Domino’s pizza for Rs 200!!). Thankfully, the marvelous handicrafts do make up for everything. Five hours and a couple of thousand rupees later, clutching a heavy bag of finely polished Dhokra artworks and wonderfully bright Channapatna toys, I was already planning on items I shall be purchasing the next year!


Learning - A Malaysian artist tutoring children about how to paint


How to reach: Surajkund is located in Faridabad, approximately 8 km from south-east Delhi. The nearest metro station/bus stop is NHPC on the arterial Mathura road. Free to-and-fro shuttle services are available between the fair arena and NHPC, Badhkal Chowk and Badarpur metro stations. Interstate buses and autos also ply throughout the day along Mathura Road and one can get down at Badhkal/NHPC and avail a shared auto from there. If driving from Delhi, one can access Surajkund past the Karni Singh Shooting Range near Tughlaqabad.
Entrance fees: Rs 120/person (Rs 60 for senior citizens and college students upon showing photo ID card; free entry for girl students and children below the age of 10 years). Tickets are also available at 31 metro stations including Badarpur, Neelam Chowk Ajronda, Escorts Mujesar, Badhkal, Tughlaqabad, Sarita Vihar, Rajiv Chowk, ITO, Mandi House and Central Secretariat.
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 3-4 hrs
Organizational details about the annual fair - Pixelated Memories - 28th Surajkund Crafts Fair
Another amazing place to shop for handicrafts and textiles - Pixelated Memories - Dilli Haat
Suggested reading - Wikipedia.org - Behrupiya

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