The ongoing Surajkund Mela, which kicked off on February 1st, has been a huge attraction with a number of talented craftsmen from all over the world displaying and selling their unique products in the mela. The stalls from Sri Lanka are attracting huge eyeballs, where the sale is also going on pretty well. What makes the Sri Lankan stalls an interesting one as well as unique is that all the craftsmen that have come over are those who received Presidents award for their wonderful work in their fields- primarily handicrafts. There are a number of Asian as well as African countries participating in the mela.
“Not all those who won the award have come over to Surajkund Mela, but a selected few handpicked by the Sri Lankan government,” said Kanchana, who is one of the President's awardee. So, one can expect good quality items in these Sri Lankan stalls. They have erected around 5-6 stalls in the mela. Most of them are selling wall hangings, panting, wooden painted masks, batiks, wooden craft items, porcelain items etc. Kanchana further adds, “A total of around 15 craftsmen from Sri Lanka have come over here.”
Among all their stalls, it was one of their stalls selling painted wooden masks, which received wide attention. These masks had vibrant colours and surprisingly very light irrespective of the size. Susantha Kumara, the craftsmen who has brought these items said, “These wooden masks are made out of wood. Natural paints are used along with light wood, which are carved. Prices vary from size to size. All these products, at least, require a human effort of two to three days to make one mask,” Normally these items are used inside as well as outside homes to protect from “evil”. While not all are to ward off evil, some are also used to bring good luck.
Kanchana, whose stall is installed adjacent to Susantha's, has a number of customers asking for the prices of batiks. Kanchana has received the President's award four times. He is one of the most experienced Sri Lankan craftsmen who have come over to Surajkund Mela for the fourth time while the rest of the craftsmen have come over for the first time.
Kanchana said, “I have brought a number of shirts, ladies tops etc. in the mela. Pure cotton material is used for this product and we use German and Swiss chemicals. These chemicals are expensive but durable. We do not use Chinese chemicals, though it is going to be cheap, but not durable.”
Their focus is primarily on the quality of products they are offering at their stalls. The starting price for these batiks is Rs 500.
Sri Lanka, a country located on the coastal areas, is well known for coconuts. Some craftsmen like Wijedasa Singakkara have a special talent. He makes faces from coconut shells. Most of the items on sale and display were monkeys carved out of those shells with the help of a knife, which did not cost much – Rs 500 primarily.
He said: “I learned this craft from my grandfather. This skill has been passed on from generations. I can make any faces – famous personality. I can even make your face.” What make these items so special are their intricate details, and they don’t use any machines. They are all handmade.
Singakkara expresses his love for India and expects a big sale. But they might fall short of the sales, as they are neither well versed in Hindi nor English, still, they are upbeat about the sale. But, it is their quality of products that talks loud.