One of the most enjoyable and interesting experiences that I had in Delhi was to visit this project put together by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Tourism Departments. It's called Dilli Haat, and it is an open air bazaar of some of the finest craftpersons, artisans, Indian chefs and textile makers from all over India.
But first I had to get there. Just try telling an autorickshaw driver that you want to go to Dilli Haat, and they will tell you, "No madam, too much traffic" or, "No sir, too far!" Or they will simply tell you that they don't know where it is (c'mon yaar, everyone knows where Dilli Haat is!) Finally, and I'm not kidding here, after about 2 hours of visiting overpriced emporiums that probably belonged to the family of the rickshaw driver that I had employed, I decided to try again, this time with a different driver. Success at last!
The vegetable market where the autorickshaw driver pulled over and wagged his head toward Dilli Haat, across 6 lanes of horrendous traffic!
Wait! Did I say success? The driver pulls up to a fruit and vegetable market, gives me the head wag and points across a huge crowded, busy traffic packed 6 lane road! I didn't really think he was going to take me right to the front gate did I? Not in THIS traffic! This is Delhi, get with the program! First, I had to navigate across 3 lanes of traffic, climb through a hole in the wrought iron fence in the center divider, my backpack being about 12" too fat for the opening, causing some locals to assist me by giving my backpack a little shove to make it through!. Then dash acorss the other three lanes of traffic. This is done by watching the locals, when they go, you go. They know what they are doing, trust me! (Hey! That's just the way it's done in India, you wanna cross the street or not?) Finally, I made it safely to the other side.
Once inside Dilli Haat, I was rewarded with a silence, a calm so unlike that of Delhi. Ok, so maybe it wasn't like being in a forest all alone, but this is India, yaar, and this is paradise!
My doctor pal, Devashish, (on right)wheeling and dealing with a texile vendor, to get the "best price", while I hide so as not to be charged "rich American tourist" prices!
If you'd like to see a really fun panoramic view of Dilli Haat, go here: http://www.newdelhibest.com/360panorama/main.asp?url=/360panorama/delhihaat/delhihaat.asp
OK, I know this is long, but I like to include all the info in my blog, I don't want someone chasing all over the web looking for the articles I've already found, so just read the darned thing!
Dilli Haat, the food and craft bazaar is a joint venture of Delhi Tourism and New Delhi Municipal Corporation. Showcasing India's unity in diversity, this market operates all the year round. The tickets costing a mere Rs 10 can take you into the fascinating world of Indian art and culture from all the states in India.
Situated in the six acres, Dilli Haat is the first of its kind providing encouragement to the upcoming artists. Not just the food, but handicrafts and rural products from all over India are available in this 'traditional mela'.
Dilli Haat is a forum, which seeks to preserve Indian art and heritage. There is a right mix of craft, cuisine and Cultural activities, giving you a feel of the rural life in India.
The complex has been designed in a traditional North Indian style. There are in all eighty- seven stalls, including twenty-five food stalls. A plaza paved with stone and brickwork skilfully interspersed with grass, flowering shrubs and towering eucalyptus trees have conjured up an oasis in which visitors can browse at their leisure. The stalls to the craftsman are allotted on rotational basis for a period of a fortnight. The Haat is permanent but the craftsmen are mobile and ever changing.
The food plaza offers a wide choice of ethnic food from all over the country. A variety of crafted handicrafts, from each region are available in this exotic bazaar. From candles, terracotta, crockery, artefacts, jewellery, garments, dry flowers, show pieces, beads, metal ware and bags it's a colourful sight to watch shoppers buying their favourite wares. The prices are kept to their lowest, so that cottage and small industries are promoted. The ethnic market provides an ambience for all alike from piece and quiet for the students who love to hang out here, for the elderly just passing their day or taking a walk. The bill does not leave a hole in your pocket.
There is an adequate open space just in front of the Haat providing ample space to sit. If you want to savour momo's from Nagaland, Dosa from South, sandesh from Bengal, this is the place to hit. The international pavilion serves the best of international delicacies.
This place is always throbbing with one festival or another. It might be a state specific festival or a handicraft festival, a puppet show or a street play, the Haat has its own charm. There is also a hall in the complex, where exhibitions are held. A meeting room, PCO facility, Cyber café and a souvenir shop by Delhi tourism are some of the facilities available here.
The Haat also holds summer workshops in pottery, paper machie, painting, craft etc at very reasonable fees. This place is full of life and enthusiasm all the year round and has emerged a favourite destination among shoppers and tourists.
Dilli Haat does not only showcase the Indian culture but also provide a platform for cottage and small-scale industries. The place is open from 11 am to 10 p.m.
Address: Dilli Haat, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Opposite INA Market, New Delhi - 110 023.
Ok, and may I just say that, while in Dilli Haat making my purchases, I was offered to be a young Indian mans "first". First what. you ask? I have no bloody idea! But, I wasn't gonna be his first anything, that's for sure!
Anyway, if you ever go to Delhi, take advantage of this fantastic market to find arts and other hand made items from all over India, in one place. It's just a wonderful, fun thing to do with lots of delicious chai stalls, Indian snacks like samosas and chat, and a fun place to meet people as well. Just don't fall for that "come home with me, madam, you will be my first!" routine and you will be ok!