Monday, February 9, 2009

Dilli Haat - for beautiful handicrafts and handloom textiles


Dilli Haat is - a wonderful marketplace for handproduced items. It lives up truly to its name - yes Haat pronounced (haaa t – as in tap) means market place in Hindi and stands to translate as market place in Delhi or Dilli Haat. Haat is usually used to describe weekly markets held in rural area. This was the concept in the design of Dilli Haat, to create a place within Delhi where people could buy products straight from the maker – craftspeople without any middle man. Dilli Haat has been innovatively designed and actually covers a very old sewer drain. It is an ideal place to see the panorama of handwork – textiles, jewellery, tribal paintings, sculptures, wood work, metal craft, silver craft …..from the country. I am a huge fan and am there literally once every 10 days (the earlier 15 days for each craftsman has been revised to 10 days keeping in mind the popularity). It is also an ideal place to buy organic products, natural herbal cosmetics, honey, farm fresh products… There is a change of craftspersons every 10 days. Some of the well known exhibitions to look out for are: Master Craftsman creation – where only National Awardees participate – this is held in the first half of December, Dastkar – Nature Bazaar – 2nd half of November, Dastkari Haat Samiti – End December (towards Christmas & New Year), Uttaranchal Organic Festival and that by Tribes (first half of February). One can find some good craftsmen through out the year.

Location –
Opposite INA market, just across the All India Medical Institute. A good 10 kms from Connaught Place

Timing – It is open 10:30 am to 10 pm on all days. There is an entry fee of Rs. 15 for adults and Rs. 5 for children (Ages 5 to 12). Children below 5 are allowed free inside. Parking is at an hourly rate of Rs. 10 and there are two lots behind the Haat. Though very cumbersome on a holiday. It is wheel chair friendly.

Highlight – The range of products is very interesting. Almost all handcrafted products from India are available from time to time. Some of the craftsmen supply to leading branded stores in the country. One can get good quality kantha, tribal textiles, tribal paintings, Lucknowi Chikan, Pashmina, metal work, silver… The restaurants offer good quality food from all over the country at very affordable price.

Insider Tip – Most craftsmen open the stalls by 11 am only. Best timings are 12 am onwards in winters, in summers evenings are better especially when accompanied by cultural programmes. It is a good sourcing ground for those who want to buy craft pieces in bulk for business. Bargaining is the norm. Craftsmen who are National Awardees do not fall into the bazaar like haggling for their products – rightly so as they are acclaimed artists in their particular sphere. For others though, bargaining is vociferous and prices can be bargained to nearly 40 – 50% of the quoted price. Enquire persistently for upcoming shows, there is little information available and one can miss out on good events if not alert!!!

(Do read other posts on Craft Museum, Dolls Museum & Akshardham for more shopping options)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Eating Chaat in Delhi


Snacking in Delhi is synonymous with eating Chaat. It is almost never made at home and popularly eaten off the streets! In Delhi almost every market small or big has its share of chaat vendors or wallahs. Roughly chaat can be described as vegetarian snack food from the streets. The delicious range includes a host of food snack items, but to the North Indian majority in the Delhi area, it is the, aloo tikki, aloo chaat, papri chaat, gol guppa, dahi bhallas, dahi pakoris, dahi gujiyas, bhalla papri, raj kachori, luchha tokri which comes under the chaat nomenclature.

Chaat literally means to lick yes and the fare is lipsmacking. It is crisp, tangy and brings out a variety of sensation, literally putting the tongue on fire. The chaat combines all the flavours – salt, sweet, hot, sour and cool into a homogenous blend. Such that each flavour flows distinct yet it blends as one. Giving it a unique taste which is best eaten and not described. The commonality of all chaat is the seasoning used – the khatti meethi (sweet sour) chutney (sauce) called saunt, mint green chilly chutney, green chilly chutney, green chillies, coriander leaves, rock salt, boiled potatoes, chick peas boiled and the chaat masala (spices). The range of seasoning varies from shop to shop which gives each its unique taste.

For the uninitiated -
Gol guppas or pani puris are small round crisp fritter like puris filled with a mouthwatering combination of tamarind water and more.
Papri chaat – Crisp fried papri topped with cold curd and seasoning
Ballah papri - The papri includes fried dumplings made of urad dal (split washed black lentils) called ballahs with the same seasonings,
Dahi ballahs (well, the ballahs, in sweet curd)
Aloo tikkis - Potato cutlets filled with chana dal (lentils) or green peas and spiced up. It is shallow fried on the girdle.
Aloo Chaat – Cubes of potatoes deep fried in oil on the girdle. It is served liberally sprinkled with rock salt, lemon juice, chilly powder…..
Fruit Chaat – A spiced up mixture of freshly cut fruit.

Highlight - Chandni Chowk almost all shops are good for chaat. Chaat served at each corner is different. So popular is Aloo Tikkis that McDonald launched aloo tikka burgers!
The aloo chaat in its pristine form can give French fries a run for its money.

Location - Where to Eat – Bengali Market near Connaught Place houses – Bengali Sweet Corner, Nathu. Most shops there serve chaat worth their name.
Eatopia at India Habitat Centre is a modern restaurant serving street food.
Prabhu’s Chaat, Shahjahan Road, outside UPSC building . His chaat is legendary
Natraj – 1396, Chandni Chowk is well known for its dahi ballahs
Gole Market, near Connaught Place also has some fine chaat outlets. Then the numerous Haldiram / Bikanerwala / Agarwal Sweets outlets

Timing – Most shops open at 10 in the morning and serve it late into the night till stocks last! Being street food it is a steal - priced from Rs. 10 per plate to about Rs. 30/- depending on what is ordered.

Insider Tip – There are no bad outlets selling Chaat. One cannot go wrong with a random pick. The origin of chaat is traced to finding a cure for stomach ailments, however an overindulgence of chaat can result in upset stomachs. A sore throat is also not unusual after a binge. Golguppas made from semolina are better than the ones from wheat flour. When eating gol guppas, check if the water is Bisleri, or water is of assured quality and ice used is clean and it is served untouched by hands.

Monday, February 2, 2009

National Museum


The National Museum is the "prima donna" of all museums in the country. It unfolds a fascinating account of the 5000 history of Indian Civilisation from the Indus Valley Harrappan Civilisation dated to (2500 BC - 1500 BC) to objects till the 19th century. The 2,00,000 plus artefacts in its repertoire has been put together from excavations, donations, buying from antique dealers and those in the possession of the Government. However, less than 1/3rd of the objects are put on display. No pieces from the end of the Harappan Civilisation (1500 BC) to the 3rd Century BC have been excavated so far, hence there are no displays for this period.

The Museum has some of the finest pieces of Bronzes, Mauryan Art (the Mauryan Period 3rd Century BC). Two pieces stand out - the Mauryan Head and the ring stone. Described as outstanding pieces of stone work with the characteristic Mauryan polish. Jain Philosophy, Buddhist icons, the Kushana period pices.... The Museum also has an outstanding section on manuscripts, coins, pre-Colombian art, jewellery, ivory carving, silver pieces. The textile collection is ecelectic in its limited space. From icons, sculpture, paintings, writings.... it is gloriously spread over three floors.

Location - Far end of Janpath next to Vigyan Bhavan, just 1 km or so from Connaught Place.

Timings - It is open 10 am to 5 pm - Tuesdays to Sundays. Monday is closed. Entry fee is levied which is Rs. 10 for Indians and Rs. 150 for foreigners. Photography is allowed, camera fee Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs. 300 for foreigners.

Highlight - It has a lovely collection of Miniature Paintings. The Musical Instrument section which is gift from collector Sharan Rani Backliwal is mindblowing. It is a fascinating collection of instruments way back to 17th Century AD and earlier. Guide facilities are available as also recorded walks which one can put on to understand the history. Special exhibitions are hosted from time to time which showcase some of the finest collections from Indian History and Heritage like the Jewellery of Nizam, TAPI,

Insider Tip - Wear sensible walking shoes as the exhibits are spread over a large space. Some of the exhibits are timeless and it is hard to believe they were crafted centuries ago like the Saraswati at the foyer. Most of the Department heads possess wonderful knowledge on the collections, history, collecting in general and also specific nuances of each period. They are accessible and proud to explain the pieces and nuances of the various craft especially jewellery and textiles.