February brings not only the call of the north wind; but borne on its wings comes the call from the lord of the arts, executor of a thousand handicrafts, the carpenter of the gods, the fashioner of all ornaments, the most eminent of artisans, the father and generator on whose craft men subsist, a great and immortal god: Viswakarma. It brings with it historical and creative significance; and along with it, cold weather and seasonal change in the Northern hemisphere.
For February is the month of the world’s largest Crafts Exhibition and Trade Fair, held in Surajkund in the state of Haryana, near the city of Faridabad. Each year, as spring begins to dawn, and the chill of Delhi commence to fade, this little ‘Lake of the Sun’ (literal meaning of Surajkund) comes alive.
The vibrance of India when it comes to show casing its crafts is understandable. Indian mythology gave the world the great architect of the universe, Vishwakarma – the progenitor of all crafts and trade in crafts. From 1 to 15 February, year on year, the cosmic world of crafts comes alive in Surakjund, a hamlet sitting in the base of the Aravalli hill ranges, in the proximity of Delhi, believed to be peopled from Stone Age.
This year is the 31st consecutive year of the festival since its inception in 1987. The festival gains strength by the year, nurtured with care and concern by the Government of Haryana, Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. A set of devoted officials who spare no effort to make the event matchless in its excellence, gives the festival life. Worthy of mention amongst such officials are joint General Managers M. Malik, Bilawar Singh, Rajesh Joon, Sabarwal, Wilfred D’ Souza, Mukesh Rao and a set of officers assisting.
Over a thousand crafts persons from all over India and from 28 other nations of the world took part this year in a mood of fun, frolic, entertainment; offering an exclusive shopping experience to be found nowhere else in the world. The finest handlooms, handicrafts, authentic fragrances, and flavours of rich Indian cuisines, and that of other countries, are there for all to savour and shop. In an alluring and enchanting rural ambience, craftsperson, including from Sri Lanka, display and demonstrate their finest, traditional, crafts-work that is set to capture the hearts and minds of visitors.
This year was the 10th consecutive year since Sri Lanka first took part in the exhibition, thanks to the efforts of the former Chairman of the National Crafts Council, Buddhi Keerthisena. For the first time, in 2008, a small contingent from Sri Lanka took part in the craft festival at Surajkund on an invitation extended, by the SAARC division in the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India, through the office of the High Commissioner for India in Colombo, and facilitated by the National Crafts Council of Sri Lanka. Since then, the Sri Lankan contingent has grown from strength to strength.
Dr. Buddhi Keerthisena President of Hands of Sri Lanka – National Crafts Foundation and Heshani Bogollagama, Chairperson of National Crafts Council participated at the Mela 2017.
This year, apart from a contingent from the National Crafts Council of Sri Lanka; for the first time an invitation was extended to ‘Hands of Sri Lanka – The National Arts and Crafts Foundation of Sri Lanka’ to send a group of crafts persons to Surajkund by the Festival Authorities on the recommendation of the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
The vision of the National Arts and Crafts Foundation is to establish a permanent platform to project to the world the incredible heritage of the crafts of Sri Lanka. In addition, to inspire present and future generations of crafts persons in Sri Lanka to protect, preserve, and give life to their intangible cultural traditions through a process of revitalising and uplifting their standards of living; and safeguard and fortify sustained development. In recognition of its efforts, the invitation extended to participate.
The special feature at Surajkund is that, all foreign invitees, including crafts persons, cultural troupes, officials, are hosted by the Haryana Government. The government and officials spare no effort to make the visitors comfortable and at home. This festival at Surajkund whilst providing a comforting sense of tradition within the context of modernity; also decisively improves the economic, technical, and social infrastructure available to artisans and speed their access to entrepreneurship and markets. Further, it preserves, educates, and acts as a source of pleasure and inspiration to the crafts persons and the people visiting the venue.