Surajkund Mela, Faridabad is known for its diverse culture and vibrant handicrafts from India and other international countries. It was my first time at Surajkund and it took me around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach my destination. The heat tried to deter my zeal, but the extensive amount of art and culture I came across at SurajKund Mela made my visit worth it.
While strolling in the Surajkund among all the stalls selling their stuff, this 'Virasat heritage village' stall was portraying a rich heritage of traditional yarning. I got intrigued by the items they had in their stall which included colourful and soft sheets, quilts and comforters.
Sarasvati and Suhas have been coming to the mela for the past four years. They come from a small village 'Julaan' in Punjab, near Haryana border. They have two sons and two daughters. Their main motive to set up their stall is to make a living while promoting their craft.
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Saraswati and Suhas have been doing this work from the start; they are not skilled at any work other than spinning yarn and converting it into fabric. Unlike the world we live in where kindness is hard to find, here at Surajkund, Saraswati even mended my kurta with love and a smile.
"I don't know many things like my husband so I do the easy labour like making the kaccha soot (incomplete yarn). All the handwork like yarning and turning them into sheets is his headache; we don't know anything except this. The machine work has overpowered our work, as they are cheaper. But fabric that comes out of the machine lacks in quality. Our handlooms are superior in quality and purity. Due to the price difference of both the products, people choose machinery looms over these handmade". Says Saraswati with a heavy heart.
Suhar, the craftsperson, told us about how the soot (cotton fibre) is converted into a thread and then turned into a handcrafted loom. Khadi is a name for hand-spun and handwoven garments made primarily of cotton fibre. Contrary to popular knowledge, khadi can also be made from silk or wool and is referred to as khadi silk or woollen khadi, respectively. The fabric is noted for its rugged texture, plush feel, and capacity to keep people warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Khaadi is manufactured in two steps: converting the fibre into yarn using tools like spinning wheels (Charkha) and weaving the thread into the fabric using looms. There are many steps like dyeing and strengthening the fibres that can be explored.
"Here at SurajKund Mela, we are getting Rs 500 to put the stall plus the accommodation and food. But after Covid-19, the world and the work is not the same, our orders are low in number. Sometimes, people ask us to make handmade items, and we get paid in exchange for the labour of weaving the sheets and other things." adds Suhar.
Suhas and Saraswati are among the thousands of craftspeople affected by 19th-century industrialization. After agriculture, handmade manufacturing could be the second most important source of employment in rural India. This begs the question, in our relentless drive towards urbanization and employment creation requiring new skills, have we forgotten our indigenous handmade handicrafts and handlooms?