Panab Mukherjee to inaugurate Annual Surajkund Mela on Feb 1

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New Delhi, Jan 30 (UNI) Brazil will lead the dozen-odd foreign countries this year at the 22nd Surajkund Mela in Haryana which would be inaugurated by External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on February one.

With West Bengal being the theme state this year, the February 1-15 annual fest organised to create an interface between domestic and international artisans, would see for the first time Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand participate along with the SAARC countries, Haryana Tourism minister Kiran Choudhry told the media.

''Gradually the fortnight-long mela was gaining an international hue with tourist footfalls increasing every year. This year Ambassadors from more than ten countries have given their consent to participate in the handicraft and cultural extravaganza which is testimony to its appeal beyound national borders.'' For the first time a 'designer village' was being carved out in the mela area, that would include a designing and fashion workshop, to provide a dash of ethnic touch to the crafts fair, along with an 'artists workshop' which would function round the year, she said.

''Another new feature this year would be the fair's stress on children, who form the centre of attraction in any fair. Additional features like camel safari and amusement park to attract them would give the mela a new ambience.'' The cuisine, as always, would be another major attraction with Thai food and Bengal delicacies being the focus areas, she told the press, adding that various food stalls from other states would also be part of the mela.

''The idea developed years back to showcase a mini-India was slowly graduating into an international event with more than ten lakh people visiting the fair last year, of which a large number was that of foreigners.'' With Brazil, which has a highly advanced handicraft culture and international presence, making its debut this year, our artisans would be exposed to their substance and fanfare as would they be benefitting from our experiences, said the minister.

Stressing that the fair was for people of all ages and class, Ms Choudhry said nearly 350 national and state awardee artisans, including 40 from West Bengal, would display their art and ware in leather, brass, cane, ceramic, clay, jute, paper, cotton, needlework and embroidery.

The Surajkund Crafts Mela, which begins at 0930 hrs and ends at 1800 hrs during February 1-15, would also encompass a fashion show, open air theatre, cultural programmes, dance sequences, rangoli display, kite flying, photography competition along with an exporters meet for business promotion.

UNI AN AKJ AS1503

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