Another Year At Surajkund Crafts Fair.

I had first heard of the Surajkund Crafts fair when I was in college and i had loved idea. Imagine a fair dedicated to the handicrafts, for two whole weeks! It was another story though that reaching there for me seemed impossible. Here I was in a small town, living a student life, far away from the capital, and there was Surajkund, almost 500 miles away, in a dusty, thorny jungle.

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Theme state: Uttar Pradesh. It’s hosting the Maha Kumbh next year.

Yes. The area around the craft fair site was still a jungle and reaching there for me seemed impossible. But then, what’s life if it does not surprise you? And so, one fine day I moved to Delhi, and another fine day, I met a man who loved crafts as much as I did. The man decided not only to stay with me forever, but also ferry me all the way to the fair every year. 

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Before the crowds thronged the place. By the time we left, it was almost stampede here.

So this year too, we, sixteen years old together now, made our way to the fair, early in the morning even before the ticket counters could open. We emptied our pockets and filled our bags… and got you some pictures.

 

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Clay Dolls.

 

The crowds start gathering in the place only around 11 am. It is a good idea to reach early if you really want to look at things, talk to the craftsmen, and buy stuff.

 

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Uzbekitan was a partner nation, and this very charming man gave me three beautiful bowls.

Even though the fair is supposed to be only for handicrafts, these days you also find a lot of cheap machine made stuff. Also, not everyone there is always a craftsman. To tell the difference just observe the person manning the stall. If he is tending to his ware and customers, he’s a craftsman, if he’s staring at the phone, he’s just a shopkeeper.

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Odhisha remains my favorite state with the most exquisite crafts and fabric. I wish they brought their mithais along too.

Wooden toys, artifacts, paintings, dolls, fabric, ceramic, pottery, wall pieces, clothes, shoes, shawls, sweaters — the variety is mind boggling and deciding what to buy and what to leave is tough. I follow one simple rule: if you will get it anywhere else at comparable prices, do not buy. If not, pick it without thinking twice.

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Pattachitra from Odhisha, depicting Krishna Leela.

 

With so many people that they deal with daily, even the artists know who is genuinly interested in art, and who’s just passing time. This man, opened up some of the most beautiful and detailed pattachitra paintings displaying rasleela, krishnaleela, and dasavtar even though we told him we’d not be able to buy any. All they wanted perhaps, was an appreciative eye. 

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Bamboo and Wood Masks from West Bengal

Another benefit of reaching early and talking to craftsmen is the discounts you get. You do not have to haggle for prices because 1: they know if you are coming in so early in the morning you mean business, and 2: they want to make their first sale, or bohni, as soon as possible, to ensure the business does well all day.

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Reaching sooner ensure you get Behind The Scenes scenarios too.

By the time the performing artists are out and about, the fair ground fills up to the brim, for catching them getting set for action, or to take pictures of and with them, arriving early is a good idea. Later, all you can manage is the noise of the music and the shoving of the crowds.

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Leave before everyone else — no traffic, no crowds .

Leaving before everyone is still coming in ensures you get home safe, sound, and sane. And even though escaping traffic in Delhi is impossible, it’d keep you away from the thousands of cars that leave the mela all at once. Also, will ensure you get out alive and kicking, rather than being kicked and mobbed.

Orientation:

The Surajkund Mela is hosted every year in Haryana and showcases the richness and diversity of the Indian handicrafts, handlooms and culture of India, and is the largest crafts fair in the world.

Dates: 2nd – 18th Feb 2018.

How to reach: Regular buses ply to the fair site and it is accessible by metro too. Nearest metro station is Badarpur. 

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