This year we spent the Valentine Day at Suraj Kund Crafts Mela, an annual fair of delightful handlooms, handicrafts, folk performances and good food.
The fair is held at Surajkund (Faridabad) in February for two weeks and was first held in 1981. It is the largest craft fair in the world.
Each year the decor is based on a theme highlighting a particular craft. This year it is Jharkhand state. It is a celebration of India’s unique diversity of traditions and culture.
The multi-cuisine Food Courts provides ethnic cuisines from all over the India. Folk artists performances are also a big hit with crowds.
I probably chose a wrong day, Valentine’s Day to visit as the mela was full of students who had bunked classes to find their soulmate in the dusty lanes of the mela. Haryana Chief Minister has announced today, that henceforth it will be a bi-annual event. Hope he also increase the ticket price to keep the “hoodlums” out.
We all would have consumed Gur (jaggery) in one form or the other, either just like that or in some sort of sweet.
Gur is an unrefined natural product of sugarcane. It is a brown raw mass of sucrose and gets its colour, brown due to the presence of other elements than sucrose, namely wood ash and bagasse. The later is used in preparation of paper. Gur is a more healthier option than sugar, which is a refined form of sucrose.
It is mostly for human consumption, apart from making alcoholic drinks and Ayruveda medicines. It is quite popular in South East Asia, Latin America, North Africa ad Caribben Islands. India accounts for more than 60% of world’s jaggery production but Brazil is the major exporter. Apart from India, it is produced in Brazil, Thailand, Australia, Germany and Mexico.
Khusinagar in Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of Gur making units and in most places in India it is still made in the traditional way.
I wonder how many of us know how it is made from the Sugarcane juice. In the attached video (shot on Jhajjar Rohtak highway) you can see that first sugarcane juice is extracted which flows in a series of pits. It is here that all impurities are removed by mixing chemicals and boiling it.
Once it is thickened it is then left to set. Once done small lumps are removed, dried and stored.
The quality of the Gur is judged by its colour, brown means higher in impurities and golden means cleaner and better quality.
It was a cold Sunday morning when we drove to Dighal Wetlands via Basai from Gurgaon, a distance of 62 kms. At 6 am in the morning there was hardly any traffic on the road but plenty of fog in fields adjoining the Jhajjar Rohtak highway. It took us about an hour and a half to reach.
After a quick cup of “chai” at a local chaiwallah in Dighal, where we also met our local Bird Guide, Rakesh Ahlawat, we started our journey to watch birds. Rakesh Ahlawat is a local boy, so who better to show us around.
Dighal is a village in District Jhajjar surrounded by a number of natural water bodies making it a favourite destination for a large species of migratory birds. For once it was nice to see locals actually taking interest in the conservation of wildlife.
The wetlands here do not have big trees except for tall grass or small bushes on which these birds rest. It is definitely one of the less traveled birding destination but it is more beautiful than Sultanpur and probably has more birds in season. We spent about 4-5 hours and left very happy.