Ethnic rusticity and interesting handicraft highlight this year’s Surajkund Mela

Surajkund at this time of the year exudes rural radiance. Known to host the annual International Crafts Mela from February 1-15, Surajkund showcases works of artisans and rural craftsmen from across the country, facilitating marketing accessibility and linkages. This year, the 30th edition of the fair is celebrating the aesthetics and culture of India’s newest state — Telangana. From Batthukamma (festival of flowers) to the world of Cheriyal Art, the indigenous expertise of Telangana and other states have been brought to life in vibrant colours, and much fervour.

Surajkund at this time of the year exudes rural radiance. Known to host the annual International Crafts Mela from February 1-15, Surajkund showcases works of artisans and rural craftsmen from across the country, facilitating marketing accessibility and linkages. This year, the 30th edition of the fair is celebrating the aesthetics and culture of India’s newest state — Telangana. From Batthukamma (festival of flowers) to the world of Cheriyal Art, the indigenous expertise of Telangana and other states have been brought to life in vibrant colours, and much fervour.

The highlights Colourful works on fabrics such as Sambhalpuri sarees, Rajasthani fabrics, Gujarati Patoala are on display. Tribal life from the Telangana through Cheriyal art is demonstrated with much authentic skill and finesse. Mirrored tribal jewellery from the state is also available for sale. Earthenware artisans and potters from Uttar Pradesh, Madhubani painters from Bihar, artworks from Andhra Pradesh, papier mache lanterns from Odisha, Blue pottery from Rajasthan — every state has its own specialties available for sale. The food court offers various cuisines and mouth-watering dishes from different parts of India. The international pavilion has Lebanese food, among other delicacies available here.

Celebrating Rural Tourism Thatched roofs, wall paintings in white on a muddy canvas and earthenware decor make for a typical rural tourism experience here at Surajkund. Artisans from across the country gather in these mini hutments and transact with customers. Handicraft, artworks, fabrics, clay works and paintings — a variety of products find refuge here for urban connoisseurs. In fact, most of such handicraft pavilions are decorated in this manner. For example, the annual Saras Melas, Crafts Museum in Delhi, Ekamrahaat in Bhubaneshwar or Chowkidhani in Rajasthan have been set up amid rural settings. The idea is essentially to make the urban consumer feel acquainted with the rural way of life, and experiences from countryside. While this idea is central to rural or eco-tourism these days, it also amounts to a rather ignorant view of rural realities, as the world of indigenous artisans hailing from villages is not quite as sanguine.

Communications for Development The good thing, however, at such festivals of national and international repute, is that hoardings, posters, communication films on development, social welfare and issues of socio-economic importance are displayed. This serves the twin purpose of making the urban consumers aware of governmental schemes on upliftment, while also generating awareness on initiatives undertaken by the government in various areas. For instance, at Surajkund, hoardings of entitlements with respect to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (which was also incidentally launched in the Sonipat district of Haryana), awareness advertisements on Consumer Courts and the rights of ordinary citizens, a huge online campaign on empowerment of women and girl child were on display too. The star attraction, however, is that of tribal art scenes from Telangana, shown at the entrance, depicting tribal living, daily rituals and agrarian way of life. Wall paintings as a communications tool from ancient times, therefore has been utilised here to communicate tribal living from the state.

Cultural Exchanges With more than a million footfalls each year, Surajkund has a fair contribution to tourism in Haryana and Delhi. This could be further utilised to promote indigenous cuisines like minor millets and other local/rural foods from the state. Additionally, unique art and craft, workshops may be organised for artists, along a skill-based map they may build the cultural capital of India. These artists may also be linked to the Start-up India campaign so as to promote indigenous products from the countryside. Melas such as Surajkund, also promote the present dispensation’s focus on the spirit cooperative and competitive federalism. States may learn from each other, use their natural and cultural capital to their advantage and create geographical indications to facilitate global trade in art and craft. This is in consonance with the cooperative federalism spirit as it promotes cultural cooperation between different states, and also enables a spirit of competition among states to develop their world of crafts. Additionally, cultural exchanges between two or more states may also contribute to the idea of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat.’

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