The Surajkund fair

Print edition : March 24, 2006

Folk dancers from Maharashtra perform at the mela. - SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Improved infrastructure has revitalised tourism.

EVERY year, from February 1 to 15, a unique cultural festival takes place at Surajkund in Haryana, 8 km from South Delhi, showcasing some of the finest handloom and handicraft traditions of the country in the cultural milieu in which these traditions flourished. The Surajkund Mela is organised under the aegis of the Surajkund Mela Authority, which consists of officials from the the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Government of India in collaboration with the Haryana Tourism Department, the Development Commissioner for Handlooms and the Commissioner for Development (Handicrafts). The mela began in 1987 in a traditional village cottage, with a total display area of two and a half acres. It gained a permanent place in the itineraries of visitors, Indian and international.

Every evening in the festive fortnight a Natyashala-cum-open air theatre comes alive with the rhythm and beats of folk performers. Every year there is a theme that showcases the traditions of a particular State. This year was Maharashtra.

Continuing with the tradition of constructing a commemorative gate modelled on a famous monument from the showcased State architects had designed a replica of the Trimurti from the world-renowned Elephanta caves.

The arts and crafts of the Warli tribe, who live in Thane district, were on display. Traditionally, the women of this tribe make paintings during wedding ceremonies.

Tourists admire handicrafts.-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Among the other artifacts on display were the lacquer-based Sawantwadi crafts, representing a 2,000-year-old tradition of weaving Paithani saris and making Kolhapuri chappals. Cultural features showcased included the Lavani and Koli dances and Ganesh Chaturthi.

The objective of the Surajkund Mela is to recreate a pristine rural ambience for the foreign and domestic tourists, to educate patrons of arts and crafts on the skills involved in craft creation, to introduce crafts and craftsmen directly to buyers and and to identify, nurture and preserve the languishing crafts of the country.

Over 350 artisans participated in the fair and for the first time weavers from member-nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) such as Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan displayed their crafts and products in the mela.

Haryana pioneered the concept of highway tourism. Its well-established roadway infrastructure enabled it to diversify in this direction. It set up tourist complexes along the highways and opened recreational centres at district headquarter towns. In the 1970s a tourism strategy and infrastructure were developed. In the 1980s, Haryana Tourism concentrated on cultural and pilgrim tourism. The 1990s saw the emergence of adventure and golf tourism.

Folk dancers from Rajasthan perform 'Kalbelia' at the fair.-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

At the turn of the century, Haryana Tourism ushered in village tourism, developed new locations and opened craft centres. It runs 44 tourist complexes all over the State. The resorts provide a wide range of facilities - hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, fast food centres, health clubs, conference halls and recreational facilities.

It is evident that with rapid industrialisation, emphasis on Special Economic Zones and a growing IT sector, the State has evolved a successful tourism policy.

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