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Konark Dance Festival
The unique Konark dance festival hosted at the famous Sun Temple, a World Heritage Site, is now an international cultural event. Konark is some kilometres away from Puri and Bhubaneshwar.
The Sun Temple is an architectural wonder. Designed as a chariot of the Sun God, it is drawn by seven exquisitely carved horses. In ancient times, the temple was a landmark on the Orissa coast. Today, the sea is nowhere near the temple and all that remains are coconut palms and mango trees. That is the venue of the yearly festival of classical dance and music held in the month of February. A number of well-known classical dancers perform at the festival when the air all around is filled with the sound of music and ghungroos. The whole place is lit up and the atmosphere all around is romantic. Nearby, stalls are set up to showcase handicrafts and cuisine from the states of India. To add to the variety, folk dancers from many states put up shows. If you are interested in Indian classical dances, Konark is the place to be in. Even if you are not a connoisseur, the dance festival is an experience worth cherishing.
As the winter bows out, the sands outside the golden fort of Jaisalmer hosts the annual Desert Festival, a cornucopia of music, colour, song and dance. Organised by the Rajasthan State Tourism Corporation, the desert festival showcases the performing and creative arts of Rajasthan. Rural folk in their bright and colourful costumes gather on the sandy expanse to sing ballads of Rajput valour, love and tragedy. Everywhere you look there are camels, puppeteers, acrobats, folk performers and snake charmers jostling for space. The annual festival ends with a son-et-lumiere show on the sand dunes. Within the 12th century yellow sandstone fort of Jaisalmer, the desert musicians and craftspersons set up their stalls to begin their programmes. Songs and music begin at sunrise and by the end of the day, the visitor to the fair gets a ringside view of the culture of the desert. The main programmes of song and dance take place in the evenings when huge desert drums take over. In the narrow winding lanes of the city, desert craftspersons show off their embroidered skirts, hand-woven rugs, wood and stone carvings, embroidered leather bags, ethnic jewellery and terracotta objects d'art. Though the festival is a celebration of the arts and crafts, each year something new is added. One of the latest additions is the camel tattoo of India's Border Security Force with its highly trained camel corps. In addition, there are two unique events also associated with camels: the camel polo and the camel dance.
International Kite Festival
Kite-flying has been turned into a festival in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Coinciding with Makar Sankranti - the end of winter -- the whole city of Ahmedabad wakes up to fly kites on January 14. Today, the festival sees kite-fliers from around the world making a beeline for the city to show off their talents. The Gujarat State Tourism Corporation organizes the annual International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad. The highlight of the festival is the display of illuminated kites which are flown after dark. A kite bazaar is kept open through the day and night for a week in the heart of the city during the Makar Sankranti week. A visit to the bazaar in the middle of the night is an experience in itself. Take a trip to Ahmedabad if you are kite-flier. Even if you are not, the riot of colours and the fascinating shapes of the kites in the skies is worth taking a look. However, you could also watch kites in the skies in other parts of India too.
Every year with spring's entrance after the bitter cold of winter, Surajkund near Delhi wakes up to welcome the craftspersons of India for a fortnight-long extravaganza. Held in the first 15 days of February, the fair is a meeting ground for weavers, sculptors and craftspersons. The open fairground becomes an exhibition of all that India has to offer to the world and at last count there were nearly 400 stalls selling everything from handmade shoes and shawls to decorative items, painting and furniture. The biggest artisans' fair in the country, the Surajkund Mela is unique for every year a state is chosen as a theme and the traditional crafts, folk dances and cuisine of the state receives prominence. The state theme is replicated in the entrance of the fair. In addition to the stalls, visitors get a first-hand experience of how craftspersons work. Woodwork, metalwork, papier-mache, weaving, embroidery, sculpture, bamboo and cane craft are all showcased at the fair. Apart from that, there are the usual forms of entertainment for children and adults. So, while there are rides and clowns for kids, the folk dances and music recitals from different states keep the adults busy. The Surajkund Crafts Mela is one big melting pot of India and perhaps nowhere else in the world would you be able to get goodies from the country in one place. If you are in Delhi around the beginning of February, do not forget the Surajkund Mela, so close to the capital of India.
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