Rabindranath Tagore had once quoted “We live in a world when we love it.” Perhaps my perception towards his views would have remained incomplete, if I would not have spent those valuable four hours at the 31st International Crafts Mela 2017, at Surajkund, Haryana.
31st International Craft Mela Surajkund
Surajkund International Craffts Mela
Ever since it’s inception in the year 1987, this amazing art and crafts fair had played an important role to attract thousands of craftsmen and artists across India and various countries around the world to showcase their rich talents. As getting the customers under one-roof is often a Herculean task for most small & medium scale ventures selling art & craft items, this fair over the years had created immense opportunities for reaching eager customers with hardly any marketing and branding expertise and experiences.
31st International Crafts Mela, Surajkund
The latest and 31st edition of the fair is being jointly promoted by the Ministry of Tourism (GOI) and the Government of Haryana. Every year the International Fair is held in between 1st -15th February attracting thousands of art loving people across the country.
The Fair entrance
This year the organizers had arranged a unique way for digitally booking entrance tickets for avoiding long queues at the booking counter. On line booking through bookmyshow.com and digital payment by mobikwik had been effectively used to ensure fast and hassle free transactions.
Digital Payment through Mobikwik
Most of the craft exhibitors had also been encouraged to accept digital payment through mobikwik, debit and credit cards. Brand Jharkhand (Johar Jharkhand) had been promoted as the official theme with Egypt being the official International partner of the 2017 International Crafts Mela.
The amazing Gate
Rajasthani artists in their traditional white kurtas and multi-colored turbans
Drum rolls..a memorable welcome into the Fair
The aura of the Drum rolls
The Gigantic Gate
Loud rolls of drums played by Rajasthani artists in their traditional white kurtas and multi-colored turbans and two gigantic tribal statues welcomed me as I stood mesmerized near the main entrance of the fair grounds. The gate’s ceiling featured a peculiar statue of Lord Shiva with his fearsome trident and sword.
The stalls near to the main gate
The Stalls near to the Main Gate
The craft stalls lying to my exact right beside the main entrance were full of colours showcasing amazing collection of handicraft items. These stalls had the looks of traditional mud huts thatched with straw roofs typical in the states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.
The Shoe stall
While many of these stalls were selling garments, others were selling rural handicrafts like shoes, jewelries, decorated utensils, and terracota items.
Each item displayed in the stalls were unique
One of the stalls selling wooden wall clocks drew my attention. It was just a wonderful moment to be with so many beautiful watches hanging from above. No doubt there was something truly classic in the designs of these clocks.
The beautiful wooden wall clocks
In the world of colors..The stall selling artificial flowers for home decoration
Another stall selling artificial flowers made from scrap items like wires, iron sticks, paper, used-fabric had created a mesmerizing colorful ambience. Inquisitive buyers and shutterbugs thronged at this stall for either collecting their favorite floral mementos or capturing memorable moments through their lenses.
Inquisitive buyers at the stall selling artificial flowers
The garden of colours
Very near to this stall, a Rajasthani potter was giving a live demo for making terracota items, baking them red in a small chula. Another person was busy painting these wonderful items with floral and abstract designs.
Amazing pieces of terracota work
My attention was drawn towards a stall selling hand-made bows and arrows. The exhibitor had even put up a small contest among the eager visitors to practice short range arrow shooting.
Moving ahead I found another stall where a couple belonging to a remote village from the state of Madhya Pradesh were busy displaying the almost extinct “Chal-Chitra” paintings on handmade paper.
The stall from Madhya Pradesh featuring amazing collections of “Chal-Chitra”
This art is also popular in the state of West Bengal where it is popularly known as “Pot-Chitra” where similar paintings are drawn on earthen vessels, fabric and handmade paper. The backdrop of traditional Durga Idols in Bengal had also featured these “Pot-Chitra” paintings since ages.
Interaction with the artists from Madhya Pradesh
The wooden statue pavilion
As I left the craft stalls located near to the main entrance my attention was drawn towards the huge three headed statue of the Tridev commonly seen at the Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra.
The replica of the Trideva Statue of the famous Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra
Finest forms of wooden sculptures
A few steps ahead and to my left lay a wonderful pavilion displaying the finest forms of wooden sculptures and statues of Deities. Many of these artworks were painted with multi-colours while others were polished by wood-touch finish.
The amazing wooden sculpture of Lord Ganesha
The wooden Lion Sculpture..resembling those found in the Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
Among these the multi-headed statue of Lord Ganesha was worth appreciating. A lion sculpture similar to those popularly seen in the Konark Sun Temple, Odisha also attracted the attention of several art lovers.
The beautiful Multi-Colored Gate
The multi-colored Gate & the Haryana Pavilion
A beautiful multi-colored gate led me further into the centre of the fair. A small gallery displaying the achievements of noted sports personalities from the state of Haryana reminded me the contribution of this amazing state by encouraging World class players like Kapil Dev, Phogat Sisters, Sakshi Malik, Vijender Singh.
The Haryana Pavilion
The Haryana pavilion was really worth watching. It featured a small village house premises with an elderly lady seated on a traditional “khatiya” with other women of the family busy in cooking lunch using the kuchcha chula. The centre of the pavilion also featured the largest “Hukka” (smoking pipe).
A model Haryani village
One of the volunteers of the Haryana pavilion was giving a live demo of wearing the traditional Haryana “Pagrees” (turban) with a minimum token of appreciation for interested visitors. I too could hardly resist this temptation for a video and selfi shots in and around the pavilion.
The Largest Hukka (Smoking Pipe)
Dadi Ka Aashirwad (Blessings of the Grandmother)
The Jharkhand Enclosure & the Cultural Procession of the Santhali Dancers
The most prized attraction of this year’s Crafts fair was the Jharkhand pavilion. A huge collage comprising of the traditional “Chou-Dance” guided me towards the Jharkhand enclosure. A huge statue of Birsa Munda popularly known as the “Dharthi Aba” (father of the earth) lay to my right leading to the pavilion cum exhibition hall.
The Jharkhand Pavilion featured amazing Chou Masks
The Chou Masks from Jharkhand
The procession of artists from Jharkhand
I could hardly focus my attention on the interesting exhibits inside the pavilion when loud rolls of drums, musical instruments and a large troop of Santhali dancers created a scintillating aura in the entire fair premises.
Breathtaking performance of the artists from Jharkhand
Young people from the audience flocked to join the Santhali dancers with the foot tapping grooving beats that growing louder and louder.
The Pavilion of the International Exhibitors
The International Exhibitors
The enclosure of the International Exhibitors lay exactly opposite to the Haryana pavilion. Art & craft exhibitors and merchants from various countries like Srilanka, Afganistan, Tunisia, Belarus, Syria, Egypt, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, South Africa had graced the pavilion for International participants.
The pavilion of the International Exhibitors
A beautiful Gate leading to the pavilion of the International Exhibitors
The Afganistan stall attracted large number of inquisitive visitors for its exquisite collection of its hand woven Afgan carpets and mattresses.
The enclosure for the Srilankan Exhibitors
The Srilankan stall was perhaps the largest among all the International stalls. Located at the centre of the International pavilion, it had exhibitors selling almost all kinds of handicraft items including garments.
The stall promoted by National Crafts Council of Srilanka
My attention was drawn towards a small enclosure in the rear side of the Srilankan pavilion. The stall promoted by National Crafts Council of Srilanka, was beautifully decorated by amazing colorful masks. I was lucky to have a chat with Mr. S.D.K. Fernando the official representative from Kandy, Srilanka. He explained me that each of these masks were used by the people of Srilanka as symbols of good luck and fortune.
Mr. S.D.K. Fernando representing the National Crafts Council of Srilanka
The amazing masks from Srilanka
The blue colored peacock demon mask was used as a symbol of peace, happiness and good luck, whereas the cobra demon mask was used to protect from evil influence and ill-health. The peculiar eighteen demon mask was used to provide protection from eighteen causes of diseases and epidemics in the community.
The Stalls from Syria
The Syrian Stall
The stall from Syria had displayed a wide range of collection of wooden boxes and artfully attractive gift items. It was nice to see how professionally these foreign exhibitors were enjoying their interactions with the Indian crowd sharing their own culture and artistic taste and preferences.
The stall from Tunisia
The Tunisian Stalls
The Tajikistan Stall
One of the Tunisian stalls had huge collection of wooden handicrafts. The other stall selling leather bags was literally mobbed out by eager customers.
The Belarus Stall
The stall from Belarus had a huge crowd following with mostly ladies and young women being mesmerized by the wonderful collection of the traditional junk jewelries.
The Egyptian Pavilion
Art & Crafts of Egypt
The Egyptian Pavilion
The Egyptian pavilion was the centre of attraction for the youthful crowd and the children. The pavilion displayed posters and cutouts of the historic monuments of Egypt and its world famous pyramids.
There was a buzz around the Egypt Pavilion
Mr. Atef Monir a renowned artist from Egypt was busy interacting with the visitors explaining them the recent trends in the Egyptian art and craft.
Shapran Jamdani weaving factory stall from Bangladesh
Jamdani Sarees from Bangladesh
One of the busiest stalls located very near to the International exhibitor pavilion was obviously the Shapran Jamdani weaving factory stall from Bangladesh. The stall presented huge collection of the famous Jamdani sarees, dupattas, Salwar-Kameez suits from Bangladesh.
Idol of Lord Buddha
The charming bells
The colorful wallets
Stalls for Interior Decoration
As I moved towards the food court, I found most of stalls were displaying handicraft items for interior decoration. Among these one of the stalls displaying wonderful statues of Lord Buddha drew my attention.
Colorful Umbrellas and cloth lampshades of Rajasthan
Colorful Umbrellas and cloth lampshades of Rajasthan
My uphill climb towards the food stalls was blocked by an amazing colorful world created by traditional Rajasthani umbrellas and cloth lampshades. The artistic taste of the exhibitor had to be appreciated.
The Multi-colored Lampshades
The Aura was simply magical
The Giant Hand Fan
The aura was simply magical. Each lampshade and umbrella were blooming like gigantic colorful flowers from the branches way above from the trees.
Dolls from Karnataka
The cute Rajasthani Dolls
The Rajasthani Dolls
Ever since my childhood I was quite fascinated by the traditional Rajasthani dolls. I used to wonder how could these dolls move around and do all the things we did in our real life. It was really nice to see a wide variety of such dolls been displayed for sale.
The amazing Rajasthani Dolls
The Gujrati Food Stall
The traditional food stalls
Apart from the regular food stalls, there was a huge gathering in front of the Rajasthani and Gujrati food joints. It was really nice to taste plateful of fapra-jalebi and Jodhpuri Kachoris served with chutney.
The Rajasthani Food Stall
The importance of India’s rich diverse cultural heritage could be hard to be understood amidst the burden of cut throat run for our professional aspirations. International fairs like the annual Surajkund Arts Mela have provided an immense opportunity for the youth to re-visit their roots, identify themselves with art & craft and have a thorough understanding of the rich cultural heritage of the country.
A memorable evening at the Fair Grounds
On the other hand small and medium scale enterprises definitely have found it easy to sell and market their handicraft items to a larger audience without any significant investments on branding and promotional exercises. Children on the other hand can also get the inspiration to nurture their talents in art & craft by simply observing the skillful artisans assembled from various parts of the country and International destinations.