A capital hub for artisans struggles to stay relevant

A capital hub for artisans struggles to stay relevant

By PREETI SINGH | | 12 December, 2015
Stalls at Dilli Haat.

Dilli Haat is one of the most popular traditional markets of Delhi admired for its cultural activities and products. It is universally acknowledged by the city’s residents, and is credited for its rich cultural presence all throughout the year. Extensive foundation work, beautifully thatched roof shops representing all states give an atmosphere of cultural diversity in one go. Some shops are permanent but other sellers’ tenders are rotated, usually for fifteen days. It gives the visitor a glimpse into the unique world of Indian art and heritage presented through a fascinating outlook for craft, cuisine and cultural activities. It is also one of the sophisticated markets in Delhi where people get decorative materials with good quality yet at cheaper rates.
This year again, Government of India, Ministry of Textiles has come up with the National Handicrafts Fair “Master Creation” at Dilli Haat. A colourful market square with stalls presenting an impressive collection of Indian crafts is the first thing you are greeted with upon your visit. Each year, the fair is conceptualised with a view to provide an opportunity for a direct marketing platform to innovative products developed by 120 handicrafts and 42 handlooms and master artisans/weavers from all across the country. The fair impressed with its quality, design and versatility of  Indian handicrafts from the diverse states all over the country. The Fair is being promoted and marketed by Council of Handicrafts Development Corporation (COHANDS), with financial assistance from the office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts).
 As soon as you enter Dilli Haat, its interiors have been designed to display these crafts and products. We had ample oopportunity to ponder over what was patiently made for these 15 days. One of the popular block prints available was kalamkari, a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of India from Gujarat, Ahmedabad. The word kalamkari is derived from the Persian words kalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen. Pure Handloom cotton and silk clothes from Gujarat Ahmedabad filled up another stall. Artistic tribal textiles from Nagaland in sarees, stoles, bedsheets, papier mache, designed from waste materials to make beautiful crafts from Kashmir, Pashmina shawls and stoles completed  Jammu and Kashmir’s contribution.
Silver meenakari designs based on Mughal designs from Jaipur, pattachitra paintings from Odisha, Cane Bamboo products from Assam, leather puppet from Tirupati, brass engravings and sea shell craft from Delhi, Sikki grass crafts from Chandigarh, Bidri craft from Varanasi, Kota Doria saree from Rajasthan, Tanjore paintings from Chennai, tie-and-die from Andhra Pradesh, kitemaker from Uttar Pradesh, Madubani and Mithila paintings and block printing from Bihar, Bagh print from Madhya Pradesh, Jamdani handloom and Kanta embroidery from West Bengal made up the rest of the stalls.
The most impressive part of  these stalls are that these handicrafts owners have been credited with National Awards and National Merit Awards. Altaf Hussain Mir got the National Award for Pashmina shawls and stoles in 2010; Sumita Prakash for the Bhoomi calendar. Asif Mian received State Award and National Merit Award for his exclusive kite designs. Some got it twice for their unique creations, such as Manendra Deka in 1991 and 1998. Many such were present whose talent and hard work had been appreciated by the Government of India in the form of national and state recognition.
However, in terms of visitors turning up for this fair and the participation of customers, many shop owners seemed dissatisfied and unhappy compared to the previous years of their holding stalls at Dilli Haat. Majority of the owners held the view that publicity for this event was not up to mark. Asif Mian from Kite Maker said that earlier it was publicised by local TV and radio, and daily newspapers. This time over there had been less promotion and hardly any people knew about it. Faisal Khan from Paper Mache crafts, said that planning and strategising for the fair was not done well, since there were too many who were peddling the same crafts, creating competition, and also lessening the popularity among visitors. He felt, that there should be only one shop for one product. Vishal Khandelwal from Meenakari traditional design said that this year the footfall of the customers is really less and moreover, rich visitors are likely to be lessen as his designs are costly to buy.
Khokan Nandi, another owner said that the event should be at least twice in the year as it would provide more opportunity to showcase their talent and also chance to earn more than the usual income. Mohammad Nasim said that since their shops are relocated within 15 days, they have limited time to earn but weekends are very popular and there is more to come in terms of crowd. There are also some whose business this year was quite prosperous and satisfactory.
I had to know what the visitors had to say about this, Aman Jain, a student was quite amused with the crafts specially Paper Mache and Pashmina textile products. He like this event as it is a chance to witness a cultural diverse nature of the country so easily and in low price. Puja, a business woman said that it is always a delight to visit Dilli Haat. It is unusual in its kind and such events make it more popular. The event is beautiful and gazing such wonderful items is a relief to the eyes. Sanjay Sharma, a casual visitor did not find it very different. It is very common for him to see the same products each year and has become a regular affair for rest of the people. People are here as they regularly comes here but not for this fair.
In the midst of all these affairs, Ministry of Textiles also conducted a ‘Craft Awareness Programme’ for non-professional above 14 years of age on Madhubani painting on paper. Also, if you want to know your future success, we also have Destiny Point by Vijay Bhardwaj who reads your future with the scientific study of horoscope and palmistry.
“Master Creation” Programme each year play a crucial role in changing lives of many artisans who gets an opportunity to show their mastery art to a wide, large audience in the heart of Delhi. It is important to understand that many of these artisans belongs to deprived sections of the society who works hard each day to get their designs better from their contemporaries retaining their mastery art. Thus, it should be encouraged and promoted not only by the government but also by the common people by visiting and appreciating their creations as you need to pay just Rs 20 to show your efforts.
 Visiting Dilli Haat is not only artistic but also recreational in nature where the entire family can have a good time having a look at the alluring crafts this week. Unwind yourself from the busy schedules and relish a wide variety of cuisine sumptuous delicacies from different States and Union Territories. From the changing venues we have the permanent ones, an Exhibition Hall; a Souvenir shop selling miscellaneous of small gift items; an open stage for cultural programmes and a playing area exclusively assigned for children.

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