Top 5 Reasons You Must Visit the Crafts Museum in Delhi!

5 reasons you must visit

As the capital of India, Delhi is a cultural hub. A plethora of art and culture related institutions are located here, as well as world-class museums like the National Museum, the Gandhi Smriti Museum, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and the Drishyakala Museum at the Red Fort, among others. In this post, I highlight one of my personal favourites in Delhi- the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum or the Crafts Museum, as it is better known. Read on to know why this place is a must-visit whether you live in Delhi, or are simply visiting.

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  1. CONVENIENT LOCATION

The Crafts Museum is located in Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Marg, in the heart of Delhi. It is easily accessible by metro and other forms of public transportation. The entry fee is reasonably priced at INR 20 for Indian citizens, and INR 200 for foreign nationals.

The Crafts Museum is located near other historic sites of Delhi such as Purana Qila or Old Fort, the Delhi Zoo, and Khan Market, so you can put aside an entire day to visit these places. You can also glimpse the iconic buildings of the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court, as they are located across the road from here.

From L-R: A traditional village home recreated at the Crafts Museum; Chhau dance being performed at the Crafts Museum; a village hut 

  1. WORLD-CLASS INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS

The quality of maintenance and exhibits of the museums located in Delhi, are usually far better than those of museums in other cities. Many of them, including the Crafts Museum are comparable to international museums. The Crafts Museum in particular, stands apart from others as it recreates different local villages and tribal settings, from around the country. You are transported to various parts of India, as you stroll through the various galleries and outdoor installations.

Houses and other dwellings have been painfully and accurately reconstructed for these installations. The different galleries also have gorgeous collections of art and craft pieces, with well-researched explanations attached.

Apart from the exhibits, one can enjoy live performances from artists, singers and dancers from different States of India. Every week, new artists are invited to perform for the visitors at the museum. It is indeed the most unique way of experiencing the rich culture and heritage of our country in one place. There is no separate fee charged for these performances, but I recommend giving a tip to support these communities.

Clockwise from L-R: The newly refurbished Textiles Gallery; designer Sunaina Suneja giving us a guided tour; silk sarees on display; ikat prints on display

  1. NEWLY REFURBISHED TEXTILES GALLERY

Though I have visited the Crafts Museum many times before, my most recent visit was to the newly-refurbished Textiles Gallery, where I was guided by Sunaina Suneja- a renowned designer and Indian textiles revivalist- on a conducted tour.

India has a rich tradition of handmade textiles, most of which remains undocumented, as textile making was the domain of women. Gandhiji is credited with re-popularising handwoven fabrics like khadi, by promoting use of the charkha. India also has a long history of using natural elements for the process of dyeing cloth.

This gallery is a one-stop shop for people interested in the beauty of Indian textiles as well as their astonishingly rich variety. You can see beautiful ikat weaves from Telangana, Orissa and Gujarati Patolas- each one different despite using the same method; rich brocades made with gold wire thread work; embellished jamdani and paithani saris from Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively; gorgeous kanjeevaram silk saris and lighter chanderi silks; tanchoi silks from Gujarat and mekhola chadors from Assam and the North-East; hand painted kalamkaris; Chamba rumaals; Rajasthani bandhanis; heavier outfits with zardozi and salma-sitaara embroideries; Punjabi phulkaris, Lucknowi chikankari work and Gujarati kanch embroidery, on display.

Artisans and craftsmen from different parts of India selling their wares and performing live at the Crafts Museum

  1. PREMIUM HANDICRAFT SHOPPING AT THROWAWAY PRICES

Even if you’re not too keen to spend your day browsing through museum exhibits, the Crafts Museum is worth visiting for its premium handicraft shopping stalls. An outdoor section is dedicated entirely to craftsmen from different parts of India, to display and sell their wares. Since the museum is a government-run body, the prices are regulated and you can buy genuinely handcrafted beautiful items at throwaway prices. The stalls change every few weeks, so you will find a variety of new items every time you visit.

You can pick from silver jewellery, unstitched Indian garments, stoles and shawls, decorative items for your home as well as general knick-knacks and souvenirs. Bargaining is allowed but I would advise against going too hard, since these poor people put in a lot of effort to make these articles!

A variety of regional dishes and filter coffee at Cafe Lota, located in the Crafts Museum

  1. A SUMPTUOUS AND HEALTHY SELECTION OF REGIONAL FOOD AT CAFÉ LOTA

All that browsing and shopping will certainly whet your appetite but you won’t have to go far for an authentic and delicious selection of regional Indian fare! Visit the in-house café at the Crafts Museum, known as Café Lota. The menu apparently changes often, but what remains constant is the high quality of the dishes and the focus on using healthy and alternative food grains, which are common across rural India.

The dishes are well-priced and offer both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian varieties. The café does not accept prior reservations, so you may have to wait for a table. It is a popular joint with people who skip the museum and come just for the café, but trust me it’s worth the wait!

These are the top five reasons I highly recommend a visit to the Crafts Museum in Delhi. However, there are many other reasons as well:

  • It is off the beaten path, relatively uncrowded and quiet
  • It is well-maintained and hygienic with clean toilets
  • It is quaint and has its own charm- quite distinct from other museums of Delhi
  • Most of the exhibits are indoors, so you can visit even during the hot summer months
  • It gives you a glimpse of India’s vast and versatile culture under one roof

I do hope you will visit the lovely Crafts Museum on your next trip to Delhi, or if you are a Delhi resident, when you are looking for something fun to do with your family and friends.

Have you been to the Crafts Museum? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below. Please share this post with someone that would find it useful, or pin it to your Pinterest boards for some sightseeing inspiration!

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The crew that attended the guided walk of the Textiles Gallery and then enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at Cafe Lota

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Entry Fee: INR 20 for Indian citizens

INR 200 for foreign nationals

Days and timings: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. MONDAYS CLOSED

Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan Metro Station on the Blue Line

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

Top 10 Things to Do in Chandni Chowk in Delhi

Top 10 things to do in chandni chowk, delhi www.nooranandchawla.com

Hi everyone, this past winter I visited Chandni Chowk three times. Each time I learnt something new and saw something different. I have visited this tourist hub numerous times before, but have never gotten around to writing about it, and this seems a good time to do so.

Chandni Chowk used to be the centre of commerce and industry during the Mughal era. Once the British came to power, they built Lutyen’s or New Delhi, yet Chandni Chowk continued to attract thousands of shoppers. To this day, it is the go-to destination for locals who want particular items in bulk, or need something traditional and intricate.

In addition to being a shopper’s paradise, Chandni Chowk is a foodie’s delight. If you are planning to visit as a tourist, the entire experience can be quite overwhelming! Don’t worry though, I’m here to make your job easy for you. Read on to know the top 10 things you must do in Chandni Chowk, Delhi.

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  1. TAKE A GUIDED HERITAGE WALK

Despite having visited Chandni Chowk with friends and family members numerous times, I only learnt of its fascinating history during my most recent visit, where I was part of a group led by historian Swapna Liddle, on a guided heritage walk. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Though Ms. Liddle officially conducts walks through INTACH, there are many other groups that offer their own curated walks. It is a pleasure to explore the streets while getting some insight and perspective on its glorious past.

Historian Swapna Liddle; the group on the guided walk

  1. TANTALISE YOUR TASTE BUDS WITH THE BEST STREET FOOD

This one is a no-brainer! There is really no point visiting Chandni Chowk without sampling the various street-food delicacies on offer. The following joints should be on your list, whether you visit just once or multiple times:

  • Shiv Misthan Bhandar for Aloo Puri (Address: 375, Kucha Ghasi Ram)
  • Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner for Chaat
  • Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan OR Pt. Babu Ram Devi Dayal for Parathas (Address: Parathe Wali Gali)
  • Karim’s for all kinds of non-vegetarian delicacies
  • Cool Point Shahi Tukda for an old-school Mughal dessert of the same name
  • Old Famous Jalebi Wala for Jalebis (Address: 1795, Dariba Corner)

Chandni Chowk is a foodie’s paradise!

  1. SHOP FOR DESIGNER OUTFITS AT THROWAWAY PRICES

Chandni Chowk is undoubtedly a one-stop-shop for people who are about to get married. Numerous stores offer heavily embellished traditional wedding outfits, and some even copy designer ones, at a fraction of the original price! Even if you don’t buy an outfit at any of the stores, it’s worth visiting to see what’s trending and scout options before committing to one outfit.

In addition, you can also buy other wedding-related paraphernalia at Kinari Bazaar. Everything you need is available in a single market- from invitation cards to gift boxes and mithai.

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Buy wedding-related paraphernalia at Kinari Bazaar

  1. INVEST IN STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL JEWELLERY

Dariba Kalan was the original jeweller’s market and continues to be the preferred destination for buying gold and silver jewellery, by the citizens of Delhi. In fact, people usually have their own select family jewellers based in Chandni Chowk, whom they call them home for personalised visits.

If you don’t have the budget to spend exorbitant amounts of money on real jewellery, you can select from a variety of costume jewellery as well. These are available in traditional Indian or contemporary modern styles.IMG_9829

I just love everything Chandni Chowk has to offer!

  1. COLLECT DRY FRUITS AND EXOTIC SPICES TO STOCK AT HOME

Khari Baoli is the place to buy wholesale dry fruits, nuts and exotic spices. Most businesses that rely on these items, source them from this market. In fact, even restaurants frequent this place to pick the best additions to their cocktail and food menus!

It is also a great place to buy dry fruits and nuts for bulk gifting during weddings, or as corporate gifts.

Khari Baoli is a haven for dry fruits and nuts

  1. ENJOY LUXURY TEA AND COFFEE

Mehar Chand and Sons has sold dry fruit and spices in Khari Baoli for years. When Anil Kumar began running the wholesale shop, he converted a part of the store into an exclusive luxury tea and coffee studio. You can buy premium tea leaves or bags, sourced from across India. If you’re feeling spendy, you can invest in the ‘Maharaja Tea’, which will set you back a few thousand rupees!

Try some exotic teas at Mehar Chand and Sons

  1. PAY RESPECTS AT MULTI-RELIGIOUS SITES

Though it began as the capital of a Muslim empire, Chandni Chowk is the best example of the peaceful coexistence of all religions. You can visit the stunningly beautiful Jama Masjid, the seat of Islam in Delhi, pay respects and enjoy karah parshad at the historic Sikh Temple Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, stop at the famous Gauri Shankar temple to get a flavor of Hindu worship, or admire the heritage of the ancient Jain temple Shri Digambar Jain Meru Mandir. Each one will leave you spellbound with its legacy and beauty.

Multiple religious sites coexist here and each one is beautiful. FromL-R: Jama Masjid, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib

  1. EXPLORE INDIA’S RICH HERITAGE THROUGH ANCIENT HAVELIS

As it was the seat of commercial as well as governmental power, Chandni Chowk was home to the richest merchants and noblemen in past centuries. Most of these people lived in lavish havelis (large, multi-level houses or bungalows), which were passed down among family members for generations. Unfortunately, many of these are currently sub-judice, or have been let and sub-let out till they became a mere shadow of their original forms.

A walk through the lanes of Chandni Chowk, however, offers a glimpse at the rich heritage of Delhi, through these gorgeous homes of yesteryear. Walk up to the roof of Gadodia Palace to enjoy spectacular views and a peek into local activities such as games involving pigeon flights and kite-flying. You could enjoy a more luxurious setting at Haveli Dharampura, which has been converted into a boutique hotel. Have a meal at its restaurant, while enjoying the live dance performance, and feel transported back in time.

Exploring the havelis of Chandni Chowk

  1. ENJOY GORGEOUS VIEWS OF DELHI FROM ONE OF ITS HIGHEST TOWERS

Women are not allowed in the main mosque at Jama Masjid. However, they are allowed to enter the grounds and the towers surrounding it. The climb of a few hundred steps up to the tower is worth the effort, so you can enjoy unfettered views of the beautiful city of Delhi. It’s a steep climb though, so be warned!

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View from the tower at Jama Masjid

  1. MARVEL AT THE SPOT WHERE DELHI’S HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM BEGAN

I had to include this one because it has personal significance for me. My alma mater, St. Stephen’s College, is also one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions for higher education in India. It first opened its doors in the lanes of Chandni Chowk in mid-19th century, and moved to its present location in North Campus in the early 20th century. A diminutive plaque is all that marks the location of this important place, but it’s worth visiting to take note of a key moment in the history of Delhi.

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The plaque that marks the location of St. Stephen’s College’s old site

Now that you have read my picks of what to see in Chandni Chowk, here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your visit there:

  1. Be well-clad in modest clothing, especially if you plan to visit religious sites.
  2. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Avoid rickshaws if you can, as nothing beats the joy of exploring Chandni Chowk on foot.
  3. Carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
  4. Stay away from the chemical laden streets where beads and other materials are sold. I once fainted here!
  5. Carry hand sanitiser.
  6. Guard your bag from potential thefts.
  7. Carry cash instead of cards.
  8. Go on an empty stomach in order to enjoy all the local delicacies.
  9. There are no clean public toilets in the area, except in Haveli Dharampura. Be prepared in advance!
  10. Wear sunblock or a hat to protect yourself.
  11. Take the metro to avoid car parking issues.
  12. If you have the time, do visit the Red Fort, located nearby, and the lovely Drishyakala Museum there.

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How to Get to Chandni Chowk:

The nearest metro station is Chandni Chowk on the Yellow Line. You can take e-rickshaws or regular rickshaws till you reach your desired starting point.

I really hope you enjoyed reading my post on Chandni Chowk- the heart of Delhi. If I have missed anything, I would love to hear about it from you in the comments section below. Please do share this post ahead with someone that may find it useful, and bookmark it for when you visit Chandni Chowk next.

I’ll be back with another post on fun things to do in Delhi, soon!

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

WOAP: World On A Plate- India’s Largest Gourmet Food Festival Comes to Delhi!

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The weather in Delhi has finally taken a turn, and we are nearing the end of ‘food festival’ season! As a fitting end to this year’s season, I visited “India’s largest gourmet food festival” called WOAP: World on a Plate, that took place from February 14-16, 2020 at DLF Avenue in Saket. This was the fifth edition of this festival, and the first one in Delhi. Interaction with a renowned celebrity chef has always been the USP of World on a Plate, and this time Delhiites had the opportunity to meet 3 star Michelin chef, Marco Pierre White. Read on to know about this specially curated food event, and if you should visit it the next time it comes to your city.

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With 3 Michelin Star Chef, Marco Pierre White

‘WORLD ON A PLATE’ FOOD FESTIVAL:

The last few years have seen a burgeoning of restaurants in metropolitan cities that cater to middle-income and higher-income spenders. World on a Plate or WOAP, is aimed at discerning and well-heeled foodies that live in these cities. This festival brings a few of the best names in the food and beverage industry together, by curating a memorable dining experience.

In addition, the festival organises master classes by renowned master chefs, as well as exclusive dinners and lunches for select invitees. The event also sees competitions amongst amateur chefs, and the WOAP ‘Restaurant of the Year’ award is judged by top chefs from around the world.

WOAP’s first edition took place in 2016 in Bangalore, where the three ‘Masterchef Australia’ judges- Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan- were the main attractions. Every edition offers interactive sessions with celebrity chefs, and Delhi was lucky to get Marco Pierre White this year.

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Master Classes at the Taste Theatre at WOAP

WHAT TO EXPECT AT ‘WORLD ON A PLATE’ FESTIVAL:

Apart from numerous award-winning food stalls that cover a variety of cuisines, you can access fully-stocked bars, meet celebrity chefs, enjoy live music, improve your culinary skills by attending numerous master classes, and get a chance to win prizes. Open green spaces encourage picnic-ing with families, while sampling the best dishes from many restaurants of the city, in one place.

An exclusive VIP Zone offers a comfortable and memorable experience, where you can interact with the celebrity chefs while enjoy appetisers and high-end alcohol.

Clockwise from Top Left: Margherita Pizza from Fio; Chicken Wings from Plats; Dimsum from Plats; Nutella Waffles from The Whiz Cafe; Dimsum from You Mee

WHAT I ATE AT THE ‘WORLD ON A PLATE’ FESTIVAL:

I visited the WOAP festival with my family. Together we were five adults and one child. Since we visited at lunch time, and shared most of what we ordered, we were able to sample many small bites from different stalls.

My son enjoyed his Margherita Pizza from ‘Fio’, and I liked the non-vegetarian sushi roll from ‘Kampai’. The cheesy dumplings and Noodle Soup from ‘You Mee’, as well as the Chicken Wings and Dumplings from ‘Plats’ were quite good. I felt that the batter-fried fish served with rice from ‘Neung Roi’ was too spicy to be enjoyable, and the Three Bean Salad from ‘The Whiz Café’ was average at best.

I enjoyed some Absolut vodka to counter the unusual heat of the afternoon and my brother enjoyed the Bhutanese ‘Kati Patang’ beer.

Dessert options were few and far between, so we ordered a Nutella waffle from ‘The Whiz Café’, which was good but certainly not the best I’ve had!

Lack of a shade was a problem on a sunny afternoon; the Festival Bar, though well-stocked was separate for hard liquor and beer

REVIEW OF ‘WORLD ON A PLATE’ FESTIVAL:

The WOAP festival stands apart from others, because of the additional gourmet experiences it offers. The event was quite enjoyable, but there are a few things you should keep in mind, if you plan to visit the next edition of this fest in your city.

What I Liked:

  • The location in the heart of South Delhi, though not exactly central, is quite convenient.
  • The food festival took place in the open area in front of the mall. This allowed access to the mall, clean toilets and easy parking.
  • The stalls offered varied cuisines among them, so we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking what to eat.
  • Benches were available, and so was plenty of open grassy area for picnickers.
  • As members of the audience, we had the chance to hear legendary 3 Michelin Star Chef Marco Pierre White.
  • At 1 p.m. in the afternoon on Sunday, the third day, the venue was full but not over-crowded which made the experience quite comfortable.
  • You could get VIP access for a reasonable price, which also included vouchers for food and drinks.

What I Did Not Like:

  • February 16 was an unusually hot day in Delhi. People without VIP access were forced to boil under the sun, as there was no shade cover in the regular areas. Perhaps the structures or tents could’ve been designed differently, or at the very least, there should’ve been fans installed as back-up!
  • The dessert options were very limited, with ‘The Artful Baker’ being the only bakery to have its own stall. Other stalls served one or two signature desserts, but on this hot day, we had to go inside the mall to get ice-cream. Quite a disappointment!
  • It was nearly impossible to get a photograph with Marco Pierre White, unless you had VIP access. I had to call in a favour to get one!
  • We had to install money on smartcards to make payments. This system is quite popular during large events and festivals, but personally, I find it cumbersome and annoying.
  • The bar was divided in two sections, one for the hard liquor and one solely serving beer. This meant a lot of unnecessary running around.
  • For an exclusive food festival, I felt the food options were limited. Perhaps that was to maintain the ‘exclusivity factor’, but I’m only stating persona preference here!

Overall, I felt it was an enjoyable event but I would do a few things differently next time. My family had received promotional passes that granted free entry but denied access to the VIP area. We would’ve preferred shelling out the INR 2500 for a family VIP pass, of which INR 1200 was redeemable in food and drinks. This would’ve allowed us to be cool in the shade and even have a conversation with Marco Pierre White himself. I recommend you do the same.

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Marco Pierre White

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Stay up-to-date on the WOAP annual festival calendar on their website here.

Follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/world_onaplate/

Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldonaplate/

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This month, I will be uploading a lot of Delhi-specific content, showing you some fun and offbeat things you can do in the capital city. Follow my blog by subscribing here, or follow me on Instagram @theladylawyer for more real-time content.

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

Inherit Festival in Delhi: A Cultural Shopping Fest with a Difference!

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‘Tis the season, folks! For Christmassy merriment, of course, but also for lovely outdoor fairs and fests in Delhi. I’m on a mission to attend and review as many of them as I can for you. Read about Zomaland, the Li’l flea, the Grub Fest, Horn OK Please, the Cocktail Village at India Cocktail Week, India International Trade Fair, Surajkund Mela, and Dastkar Nature Bazaar by clicking on each link. Today, I’m reviewing a fest I attended over the weekend at Sunder Bagh Nursery. Read on to know about Inherit 2019- a festival for Craft, Fashion, Design, Lifestyle and Heritage Tourism.

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The stage is set for Sonam Kalra’s performance

INHERIT FESTIVAL:

Inherit is organised by the Fashion Design Council of India, in association with the Embassy of the Czech Republic in India. In addition to these lofty names, the festival is sponsored by Dabur Honey, Mrignayanee- Madhya Pradesh Government Emporium, Gujarat Tourism, Pepperfry, Central Park, Centrum, and Forest Essentials- Luxurious Ayurveda. The event is curated and produced by Teamwork. Its recent edition took place over two days in December in the sprawling lawns of Sunder Nursery, in the heart of Delhi; perfectly timed with the gifting/Christmas as well as the wedding season.

Various exhibitors at Inherit Festival

WHAT TO EXPECT AT INHERIT FESTIVAL:

Primarily a shopping festival, Inherit offers live entertainment and eating options as well. One section is dedicated entirely to haute couture by upcoming and established Indian designers. These names are popular with celebrities, and regularly showcase at the India Fashion Weeks. The Inherit Festival is a great opportunity for fashion lovers to buy hot-off-the-shelf clothes, as most of them are sold at discounted rates.

Behind the higher-priced designer stalls, there are regular exhibitors selling arts and crafts, garments, jewellery- both real and costume, handicrafts, handmade toys etc. from across India.

The Embassy of the Czech Republic in India’s sizeable counter sells traditional Czech goodies, with a Christmas theme. There are also cuisine-specific stalls in a demarcated food court, to make it easy for people to pick what they want to eat.

The live entertainment focuses on Indian folk and contemporary classical music, in a nice twist from the regular offerings at other fests.

You can buy quirky sunglasses and beautiful clothing, among other things

THE THINGS I BOUGHT AT THE INHERIT FESTIVAL:

Honestly, I didn’t visit this festival with the intention of shopping, but as a hardcore shopaholic, it was hard for ,e to leave empty-handed! I first visited the fair on Sunday morning, while my family was at the Earth Collective Organic Farmer’s Market, next door.

In quite a rush, I hurriedly picked a pair of sunglasses from local brand, India Eye. I also bought handicraft batik blocks and puzzle toys as Christmas presents for two of my son’s friends. These DIY educational activity kits were sold by the Fair Trade Forum India, and were designed by a Noida-based group called Art Bunker. I was particularly impressed with this stall. They sold a host of children’s activities (age 3 and up), as well as some interesting Indian card games from the 16th century, for adults.

Due to paucity of time, I had to leave early but I returned that evening with my favourite shopping companion- my mother! This time we roamed the entire fair, saw everything, but picked only one necklace from a contemporary jeweller.

I didn’t sample any of the food but enjoyed my cappuccino while my mom savored her tea.

The Czech Embassy stall selling special Christmas goodies; beer and mulled wine were both available

REVIEW OF THE INHERIT FESTIVAL:

Had I not been invited for this festival, I would not have known about it. There was no advertising to speak of, and no buzz around this festival at all. This was rather surprising, considering the entry was free (you have to pay only for entry to Sunder Bagh Nursery), and that it was a mix of premium and affordable shopping. However, this kept the excessive crowds away, making the overall experience quite pleasant.

I really appreciated the convenient location of this festival, the fact that they offered an eclectic mix of things to shop, and the easy layout of the festival. Sunder Nursery is equipped with clean toilets and ample parking space, making visits here easy and convenient. What really sets this festival apart from other wedding and lifestyle exhibitions, is the beautiful outdoor setting. The winter weather adds an extra charm to the affair.

I will definitely visit Inherit Festival when it comes to Delhi next, and I recommend you do as well. Bear in mind, however, this one is purely for shoppers!

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Pretty decor as interesting photo-shoot backgrounds!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

To stays informed about future Inherit Festivals in Delhi, follow them on their social media handles:

Instagram.com/inheritfestival

Facebook.com/inheritfestival

Twitter.com/inheritfestival

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*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.

‘Yogini Goddesses in Delhi’: An Exclusive Interview with Artist Seema Kohli

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I am a Yogini.

A yogini through my art.

A yogini through my yoga.

A yogini through my kriya.

A yogini in my khela.

This passage best describes the effervescent and prolific artist Seema Kohli. “A Circle of Our Own” is her recent exhibit of artworks dedicated to divine energy or Shakti. Currently displayed at the Lotus Pond in Sunder Nursery Delhi, these Chausat Yoginis created by the artist, leave the viewer enthralled. Are they works of art? Historical figurines from a long-forgotten temple? Or simply a manifestation of shakti in the form of art?

The artist launched this exhibit over the weekend, with a narrative performance at the amphitheater at Sunder Nursery. I saw her collection of sandstone sculptures, zinc etchings, wood and bronze sculptures that evening, and have subsequently seen them during the day. These works of art depicting Shakti in various forms, have a remarkable quality that makes them memorable.

I was fortunate to have been able to interview the artist personally and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the journey that brought these Chausat Yoginis alive. Read on to know more.

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Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THESE YOGINIS?

SEEMA KOHLI: Shakti or divine energy has been a recurrent theme through my art work. The yoginis are simply a manifestation of the same. At first, I was hesitant to portray yoginis because of the tantric and leftist connotations given them by society. It was only after I began reading and researching on this subject that I understood their true nature- they were simply energies present in every form of nature. I wanted them to manifest as energies through my creations as well.

Q: WHEN DID YOU BEGIN WORKING ON THIS EXHIBIT?

SK: I first presented 7 sculptures in a show in 2013. They were well-received and formed the basis of the current presentation. Soon after, I began visiting various Yogini temple sites in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, with my team members. These visits helped me to marry the traditional forms of the yoginis, with my own interpretations.

The artist during her narrative performance at the launch of the art exhibit

Q: WHAT MOST ATTRACTED YOU TO THE YOGINIS/ SHAKTI FORMS?

SK: I was first attracted to Shakti in her form as Durga sitting resplendent on a lion, at the tender age of 9. This magical, mystical form of energy is life itself and can be seen in every natural form. The goddesses and yoginis were physical forms given to this Shakti from the 9th to 12th centuries, as people felt the need to worship symbols and idols.

I personally feel that particular historic period was glorious for women, as they had an important say in every life decision. They were the supreme creators. Another interesting aspect was that women worked together in groups for every activity. Even giving birth was a communal activity for women. This is why yoginis are always found in groups and never alone.

Q: NOT MUCH IS KNOWN ABOUT THE YOGINIS IN MODERN TIMES. WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THAT?

SK: They were at the height of their popularity from the 9th to 12th centuries. However, from the 12th century onward, women began to be identified as property, and so men wanted to own them. This phase began roughly around the time of the advent of agricultural expansion. Women were seen as being akin to land, which gave rise to a patriarchal system. As women began to take on a different role in society, so did the yoginis. Their popularity suddenly diminished during this period and they began to be treated as pagan or tantric symbols of religion.

I believe we must begin a new conversation about yoginis and their mythical powers. People can hide or dismiss symbols but they cannot diminish or contain energies. Hence, the yoginis and Shakti cannot be dismissed- it is life itself.

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Shakti as Kundalini

Q: “A CIRCLE OF OUR OWN” IS A UNIQUE COLLABORATION OF THE TRADITIONAL WITH THE MODERN. HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THIS?

SK: I wanted the energies to evolve on their own through my hands. The juxtaposition of the traditional goddess forms with my figurines, is the perfect way to show that these energies are not one-dimensional and can never be represented in one simple form.

I gave them Sanskritised names to retain the historical significance. Some of the traditional yoginis had names, and I coined Sanskritic names for the other figurines so each one could maintain a separate identity.

Q: YOU HAVE NEVER RESTRICTED YOURSELF TO ONE MEDIUM OF ART. HOW DID YOU NARROW DOWN THE MATERIALS USED FOR THIS EXHIBIT?

SK: I have always enjoyed making zinc etchings, and this medium was the perfect way to begin exploring the Shakti series. Sandstone was the natural choice of stone for making sculptures, since that was the stone used traditionally. These Chausat Yoginis have been resting on my balcony for the last 4 years and have experienced natural ageing in that time. The natural ageing process coupled with the fact that I’ve used multiple stones instead of carving each from a single piece, enhances their overall effect, making them seem much older than they are.

The large wooden sculpture of Kundalini and the smaller bronze sculptures, displayed near the lotus pond, are syncretic with the overall theme.

The Lotus Pond around which the exhibit is displayed

Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE SUNDER NURSERY TO EXHIBIT THESE ART WORKS?

SK: It was necessary that the yoginis remain outdoors, as I believe these energies cannot and should not be contained within four walls. I was looking for an appropriate outdoor space when a dear friend suggested Sunder Nursery. Everything fell in place very quickly and I could not have hoped for a better spot for this exhibit. The Chausat Yoginis are perfectly complimented by the Mughal environs of Sunder Nursery.

Another reason for choosing a public park was to be able to take art to the masses. It has been a delight to see the reactions of so many people who walk through the exhibit while enjoying a jaunt with their families. If art is made accessible, it will certainly be appreciated.

The exhibit will be on display here for the next three months before moving to the India International Center. I have begun working on the next 64 yoginis but I will be using a different stone for that collection.

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The 64 yoginis made by Seema Kohli are historic, artistic and cultural at the same time. I highly recommend visiting them while they are on display in this unique setting of Sunder Nursery.

Seema Kohli can be contacted at kohli.seema@gmail.com for private tours of the exhibit and for any other queries. I would like to thank her for personally taking time out to explain her vision to me.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Gallery Ragini presents “A Circle of Our Own” by Seema Kohli, curated by Shaunak Mahbubani

For buying and other queries, please contact galleryragini@gmail.com

On view at Sunder Nursery, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, till February 16, 2020 from sunrise to sunset

_A CIRCLE OF OUR OWN_.jpg

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