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The Colorful World of Indian Crafts - Suraj Kund Craft Mela

As spring glides in, full of warmth and vibrancy leaving the cold and grey winter behind, Suraj Kund dons itself in colorful traditional crafts of India. Craftsmen from all over the country assemble at Suraj Kund during the first fortnight of February this is an annual celebration known as the Suraj Kund Crafts Mela. This mela (fair) is a meeting ground for the talented artists, painters, weavers, sculptors and craftsmen form all over India who execute and exhibit their creations and the arts and crafts lovers of the world who flock here to admire and the purchase these creations.

Suraj Kund, situated 16 kilometres from Delhi, owes its name and perhaps its very existence to a historic and ancient amphitheatre 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 lcan. Raja Suraj Pal, one of the chieftains of this clan of sun worshippers, 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 Suraj Kund.

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, ‘living’ Indian village greets us. The uneven, unpaved paths that lead to innumerable thatched platforms are a delightful insight into the exquisite and skillful paintings, textiles, Woodstock, ivory work, pottery, terracottas, stonework, peppier mache, Iac 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 are Kalamkari, which are done on cloth with a swab dipped in paint and given a fine point. The hairline fineness of lines in each painting tell 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.

A few new themes will be introduced this year. The visitors will find a pavilion of Shekhavati, a small region in Rajasthan, which has some splendid havelis (mansions) rich in mural art and frescoes. A theatre is being constructed with a capacity of 1300 where cultural shows will be held every evening creating a rapport between the artistes and the audience. Some of these craftsmen hail from families of traditional craftsmen who have been practicing a particular craft for generations, while there are others who have had no formal traditional learning and have reached this peak of perfection through hard work and devotion.

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 sarees 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, chickankari which is a breathtakingly fine needlework embroidery on crisp cloth and typical Kashmiri patterns embroidered on wool and silk known as crewel work. Bed sheets, cloth pieces, dress materials and sarees can be admired and purchased at affordable prices. This year the piece de resistance will be a fashion show of ethnic clothes designed and produced by the famous French designer Pierre Cardin.

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 needed 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 spell-bound. If you need a different kind of entertainment then the nats (acrobats) will provide it. There are magic shows, puppet shows and snake charmers.

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 peppier mache 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.

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