Suraj Kund Crafts Mela revisited

 

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.

 

Ceramics Fest 2016

Got a chance to visit the 6th Ceramics Fest at Anandgram (Aya Nagar), organised by Delhi Blue Pottery Trusts (DBPT).

The DBPT is the brainchild of the legendary Sardar Gurcharan Singh, father of the studio pottery movement in India and was set up by him in 1991. They have been organising such festivals annually called Potter’s Bazaar.

However, soon they realised that people felt that only traditional pottery was being displayed in these festivals, so they re-christened it and called it Ceramics Fest. So now you have beautiful pots, planters, plates and toys made in nature-friendly ceramic being displayed in the festival.

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The exhibits are so beautiful that even if you go to see, you are attracted to buy at least some of these beautiful creations, all costing under 5000 rupees. This is probably the largest gathering of studio potters and it was great learning, how a lump of clay transforms into the beautiful objects.

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Folk performance are held in this amphitheatre.

The artist use different mediums such as stoneware and porcelain, to make the stunning pieces. In the absence of good quality stuff avilable locally, the high cost of raw materials pushes the cost of the artifacts. The Porcelain is imported from China, and clay is bought over from Aurovile.

During this festival, a number of workshops are also planned, such as Hand building workshop by Monica and Ambar Agnihotri, Slip trailing by Milap Chand, Cooking in a clay pot by Anuradha,  making a cooking pot by O.P. Galav and understanding ghatam, a clay instrument workshop by Elethur N Hari Narayanan. Additionally some folk artists are also performing.

If you live in Delhi or are visiting it, this is a must see.

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Heritage Walk in South Delhi.

The first stop on our last Sunday’s Heritage Walk was Darya Khan Lohani’s tomb in Kidwai Nagar East, New Delhi.

Darya Khan served all the Lodi kings on several high posts. He was the Chief Justice Officer during Buhlul Khan Lodhi’s reign and was later appointed as an Advocate during Sikander Lodhi’s time.

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His tomb stands on a raised platform and its exterior is made up of red masonry. There are stairs on three sides and the main entrance is via the eastern face of the monument.

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There are domed pavilions on all four corners of the platform and in the center there is another platform with an unmarked grave painted in white.

We are told that on every Thursday morning the grave is cleaned by an old man called Haaji Bhure who also lights an incense stick at the head of the grave.

On the whole the monument is badly maintained. Half of the dome on one of the pavilion is missing, the rest are crying for neglect. Meanwhile next door, the residential blocks of Delhi Development Authority apartments, are being re-built adding further to the misery of this monument.

Our next stop was “Tin Burj” in South Extension Part I. It is again a badly neglected monument with a private land bifurcating the monument. ASI apparently lost a court case so now a private land runs in between the monument. There were three gumbads,  Bare Khan ka Gumbad , Chhote Khan Ka Gumbad and Bhure Khan ka Gumbad and you could access them together.

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The first two gumbads are larger than the third but they all have similar architectural features like ornamental doorways, arched niches and onion-shaped domes. Kale Khan ka-Gumbad, or Bhure Khan Ka Gumbad has its ceiling decorated with painted plaster-word and it was built in 886 AH during Buhlul Lodi’s reign. There were two other nobles, one of whom was the father of Darya Khan, in whose memory these Gumbads were made.

It is said to see how our heritage today is nobody’s business and is being destroyed slowly.

 

 

R K Puram Heritage Trail

Like me, if live in Delhi, you would have passed Rama Krishna Puram (R K Puram), a million times, and I bet, you did not know that there are a few Heritage buildings of Lodhi era hidden inside the R K Puram? So last Sunday, we decided to explore them with our resident expert, Vikramjit Singh Rooprai.

Our first stop was, Wazirpur Gumbad, in Sector 5 , right behind the Gurudwara.  Not much is known about this monument, like why it was built and who actually built it?, except that it was built during the Lodhi period.

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Baoli, Wazirpur Gumbad.
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Wazirpur Gumbad.
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The mosque.

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It however has a Baoli (step well), a well and five structures, tombs which are quite similar in built but are of different sizes, one is large and while the others are smaller in comparison.  The main tomb had two graves inside, with signs of a third one in the centre but the actual grave is missing.

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It appears that the locals pray here as we could find signs of offerings made, flowers, incense, earthen oil lamps and sweets.

Initially this was part of the Munirka Village but somewhere during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s stint as a Prime Minister, the name of this place was changed to R K Puram, although not much is available in ASI’s records.

Our next stop was Munda Gumbad, but unfortunately we could not go inside the complex as the main gate was locked and the Guard on duty was missing.

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Munda Gumbad.

I really do not understand why this monument was under Delhi Government’s control whilst the other two were under ASI, but then who am I, just an ordinary citizen.

So instead of waiting for him, we proceeded to our final stop Biran Ka Gumbad. Again not much is known about it except that it was built by one Bijri Khan, a nobleman during Lodhi era. It is built on a raised platform and the structure is square in shape with a tomb on top.

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Birji Khan’s tomb.
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Birji Khan’s tomb.

Before these monuments are lost of us due to neglect and mindless restoration, it is a good idea to visit them in the near future.

 

Spread a smile. Gift a Joy.

It is a pleasant day today with intermittent rain and lots of clouds. For some of us, it turned to be a beautiful day as we visited Earth Saviours Foundation. We got a Gift of Joy from the inmates of the NGO, run as a shelter of hope in Bandwari Village.

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Ravi Kalra the main force behinf Earth Saviours Foundation.
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One of the inmates with a Jamun sapling.
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A senior inmate planting a Jamun sapling.
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A senior inmate planting a Jamun sapling.
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Our happy friends planting the sapling.
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A senior inmate planting a Jamun sapling.

The day started with a tree plantation drive in the shelter and a number of local Jamun (Black Plum) trees were planted by the senior inmates and some of our friends.

Next was a round of sweets shared with the inmates. The smiles were precious as were some comments, like  “I had 3 laddoos” and the feeling was priceless.

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Now is the time for laddoos.
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Day’s lunch menu, Kadhi chawal.
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A satisfied lot after the plantion drive.
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Kitchen for inmates inside the NGO.
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A relaxed mid morning.
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It’s time to say goodbye.
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Fursat ke kuch pal.

After spending some more time talking to the inmates we said our goodbyes but not before  we left more goodies (rations) for them and a promise to return soon.

Thank you friends for this gift of joy and spread of smiles.

Food walk in Jama Masjid.

Last weekend, it was a hot and humid Saturday when my friend called to ask if I would be interested in joining him for a food walk in Jama Masjid. As a lover of non vegetarian food, I could not say no, more so since we were going to Jama Masjid during Ramadan.

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Devouts gather in the compound of Jama Masjid for prayers and Iftar.
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Matia Mahal bears a festive look.
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Families gathering for prayers and Iftar.
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Wazu (ablution) before the Namaz.

Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims around the world. Prophet Mohammed said that when Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven open, the devils are chained and the gate to hell is closed. It was during this month, when on a night known as Laylat al Qadr (The Night of Power) that the first verse of the Quran was revealed by GOD to Mohammed.

So all Muslims, except for the elderly or sick or small kids, fast from sunrise to sunset as part of a spiritual discipline. They have only one meal, Suhoor before the sunrise and Iftar directly after sunset. The interim period is for study of Quran, extra prayers, increased charity and generosity. After the month of fasting is over, comes a 3 day long festival Eid ul-Fitr (kind of Christmas for Muslims).

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Delicacies on offer.
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Delicacies on offer.
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Delicacies on offer.
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Food on offer to be had after the prayers.
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Devouts waiting for the official signal from the Imam.
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Pyar Mohbbat Maza, a really refreshing drink available only during Ramadan.

In the evening after the call for prayer, they break their fast. Jama Masjid in the walled city of Delhi and its surroundings acquire a festive look and people enjoy very good food preparations some of which are prepared exclusively during this time.

Whether you are fasting or not, you are welcome to enjoy the best food on offer. Like a very refreshing drink, called Pyar Mohbbat Maza (Love n enjoy) made out of milk, Rooh Afza, water with tiny pieces of Watermelon in it, available only during Ramadan.

A Holi with a difference

Today I had the privilege of celebrating the Festival of Colours with some members of our society who have been robbed of many colours from  their lives.

Some members of our walkers Group, Let’s Walk Gurgaon visited an internationally recognised NGO, The Earth Saviours Foundation, in Bandhwari Village on Gurgaon Faridabad Road, run by a Karma Yogi Ravi Kalra.

Let’s Walk Gurgaon is an eclectic group of people who enjoy walking. Every Saturday the group goes for walks to unexplored green areas in and around Gurgaon for a morning walk. There’s no pleasure that equals an early morning walk.

Ravi Kalra is a social activist and environmentalist who has been running this shelter since 2008. He is a 4th Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo and has travelled the world coaching various teams. After 5 attempts to give up his life of professional success, he finally gave it all up in 2008 when he set up The Earth Saviours Foundation without any monetary support of either a business house or Government.

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The shelter run by The Earth Saviours Foundation.
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The shelter run by The Earth Saviours Foundation.
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Inmates of the shelter run by The Earth Saviours Foundation waiting.
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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.

 

 

Since then he has dedicated his entire life to improve the lives of abandoned senior citizens, victimised women, mentally disabled people and people suffering  with incurable diseases giving them all a chance to lead their lives with dignity.

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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.
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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.
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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.
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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.
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Sharing some fruits with the inmates of the shelter.
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Sometimes a simple photo can bring a smile.
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Somebody is really angry.
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The women’s wing in the shelter.
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How happy they are to be in a photo.
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He wanted to have a discussion with us, was not sure of the topic.

We went to celebrate Holi and share some fruits with the inmates of the shelter but we came back with loads of love and respect. It was a truly a humbling experience.

 

May GOD give more power to Ravi Kalra and people like him.

Street Art – WIP

St+art India Foundation has been working in Delhi for 4 years. To commemorate this occasion they have organised a street art show, called ‘WIP – The Street Art Show’ (an acronym for Work In Progress), in Inland Container Depot, Okhla Phase II.

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Street Art Delhi

The theme for the event is –
“The City of New Delhi is always under construction, always transforming. It is a continuous work in progress. WIP celebrates the essence of an ever changing city by having a space that is constantly evolving.
This is an open lab, a peek into the artists process.”

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The unique open air event aims to convert the largest dry port in Asia – Inland Container Depot in Tughlakabad, New Delhi, into a vibrant art gallery. It features art work of 24 artists from all over the world.

There is a performance corner too in the exhibition where upcoming poets, musicians etc can show case their talent.

A visit to Ghalib’s haveli.

In December 2010, former CM of Delhi Mrs. Sheila Dixit unveiled a statue of the poet Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan “Ghalib”. The statute was commissioned by poet and film lyricist Gulzar as a tribute to the legendary poet and was sculpted by Bhagwan Rampure, a well know artist.

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The new Statue

Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli (home) is located in Ballimaran, Delhi. Though a bit late, it has now been declared a heritage site by Archaeological Survey of India, as parts of the haveli has already been encroached upon.

Plaque outside the Haveli
Plaque outside the Haveli.

Here you get an insight into the life of Ghalib. The walls of the haveli have his poems hung on them. This is now a permanent museum of Ghalib. There are many hand written poems and his books. There is a life size replica, of Ghalib with a hookah in his hand. Portraits of other prominent poets such as Ustaad Zauq, Abu Zafar and Momin are also here.

Notice inside
Notice Inside.
Some of Ghalibs's favourite things
Some of Ghalib’s favourite things.

After coming from Agra, Ghalib spent a lot of time here and wrote his Urdu and Persian ‘diwans’. After his death this haveli was encroached by the neighbours who set up shops here but the Govt have now acquired a portion of the haveli and renovated it bringing back its old world Mughal magnificence & charm.
If you are ever visiting Delhi, it should be on your must see list.

Street Art is here.

Graffiti is defined as writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or painted on a wall or other surface, often in a public place. It has existed since Roman Empire and has been used to express social and political messages. India was not big on this art form as most looked down upon till now.

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Hanif Kureshi is a young man in his late twenties and has studied Fine Arts at M.S. University of Baroda. He has worked at Ogilvy & Mather and Wieden+Kennedy. He has won international and national awards for his various projects. He along with Akshat Nauriyal and some other artists formed St+Art India Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works on art projects in public spaces.

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One of their initiatives is St+art Festival and is currently running in New Delhi, in Lodhi Road area. Some of the art put up by them on several walls between Khanna Market and Meherchand Market have turned them into an open air art gallery accessible to everyone.