|A Rural Setting a
Stones Throw from Delhi
Just 20 km from
Delhis city centre, between the villages of Baharpur and Lakkarpur, lies Surajkund
a village that subsists on grazing livestock and stone quarrying. Also the venue of
an annual Crafts Fair in February.
Now here lies a village scene on
Delhis doorstep, 20 km from the city centre, in the state of Haryana. The name
itself is taken from a splendid water tank that is believed to have been constructed by
the Rajput king Suraj Pal in the 11th century. Another historical reference in
1876 placed it between the villages of Baharpur and Lakkarpur.
Ideal for those wanting to sample a
rural setting in a hurry, Surajkund is usually visited as part of a day trip. However, an
overnight stay in one of the Haryana Tourism properties will enable a greater antidote to
metropolitan stress. As one drives away, leaving behind the congestion of the city, there
is a perceptibly new charge in the air.
On arrival at Surajkund, one will see
the impressive dimensions of the tank blending attractively with the rocky terrain. The
local community is small, making a living out of grazing their livestock or the stone
quarries nearby that feed building and construction work in the city. It is as though
after the frenetic pace of the capital, time suddenly stands still here.
As one tunes into the rustic grid, from
the belly of the nearby clumps meal on earthen chulhas fuelled by cow dung. In summer, the
long hot afternoon gives way to a more comfortable evening as the birds come back to the
treetops and the cattle return home for the night. Of forest will probably emerge a
peacock, resplendent in its colourful plumage. Local folk dot the patches of shade around
the trees. The men of the family, though spread out on a charpoy drawing on a hookah, will
be uncannily aware of the movement of their cattle. The routine supervision of the herd
may be left to the youngsters who unleash their energies coaxing an unwilling cow or even
riding the occasional buffalo!
The scene will, of course, include a
spiral of smoke as it twists upwards beyond the trees. Right there, the women will be busy
readying the days.
Winter lends an altogether different
character to the area. The air is crisp, inviting a day out in the open. But the highlight
of the cold weather is the annual Surajkund Crafts Mela held between the 1st
and the 15th of February every year in the village complex. This fortnight-long
gathering of craftspersons from all over India has become one of the most prominent
cultural fairs in the tourism calendar. Attractively organised on the periphery of the
water tank, the Mela brings together potters, embroiderers, weavers, wood carvers, metal
workers, stonesmiths, painters and other craftsmen who have achieved distinction in
traditional skills, across the length and breadth of the country. This is not all. For
there are also folk dancers, musicians, acrobats and magicians who keep up a running
performance for the visitors entertainment. One may sample instant demonstrations by
the craftsmen while enjoying local cuisine traditionally served. The choice is vast, so
one may require several visits from Delhi to take it all in! By any yardstick, a great