Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Delhi In February: Spring Delights

Vasant Panchami - which falls towards the end of January or the beginning of February -  is supposed to herald the spring season. In Delhi, It is still cold and sometimes wet too, for February usually brings some rain. But when it is not raining, most of the days are nice for an outing. Surajkund and Pragati Maidan are two very popular destinations for a day out, one for its Crafts Mela and the other for the World Book Fair. The chidiyaghar (zoo), Nehru Park, Buddha Jayanti Park, Lodhi Gardens, Children's Park near India Gate, Qutab Minar and several other parks and lakes in and around Delhi are teeming with picnickers, especially on weekends and holidays.

Some time during this month, the stunningly beautiful Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan are thrown open to the public. They are normally out of bounds for people, remaining open only for about a month in the February-March interval. Naturally many turn up to enjoy the charm of the wonderful  gardens that are landscaped in typical Mughal style. Some rare flowers like tulips are in bloom along with other seasonal blossoms. Lush green lawns and lively fountains against the backdrop of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan indeed make for an unforgettable sight. The gardens are a horticulturist's delight with their carefully nurtured bonsai and herbal sections, ornamental flowers and manicured expanses of greenery.

Surajkund is on the outskirts of Delhi in Faridabad, Haryana. Literally meaning 'Lake of the Sun', it is an artificial reservoir built in the 10th century. For the last three decades, the name of this charming little place has become synonymous with the Crafts Mela, a fair showcasing the exquisite handloom fabrics and handicrafts from various states in India. Set in a rural ambience, this open-air fair is spread over several acres of land and attracts lakhs of visitors during its fortnight-long run. You can pick up lovely garments, silk and cotton fabric, sarees, bed sheets, quilts, handmade decorative or utility items for your home, pottery, bangles, earrings and necklaces made from different materials, bags, woollens, shawls, footwear and a whole lot of other knick-knacks here directly from the artisans. It is a perfect entertainment package where you can shop, sample a variety of food from different parts of India and watch folk performances.

While the fair at Surajkund appeals to most people, the one at Pragati Maidan is primarily for book lovers. The World Book Fair is held every alternate year at these sprawling exhibition grounds. Most of the huge halls at this complex are chock-a-block with books. The sheer size of this fair is quite overwhelming. Indian as well as foreign publishers bring books written in different languages, on a variety of topics and addressed to different age groups. If one can help it, it is a good idea to visit the fair on a weekday. Weekends are too crowded for comfort.

Flowers, handicrafts, books...there is something for everybody in Delhi in February. It is a fitting finale to the winter festivities.