Just as Shantiniketan had been a childhood dream, so has been Poush Mela. Had read so much about it, had heard so many people eulogise about it over the years that it had become one of my personal must-visit destinations. Thanks to God’s grace, both Shantiniketan and Poush Mela became a reality.
Poush Mela is a famous fair and festival in the land of Tagore, Shantiniketan, celebrated over three days of the first week of the Poush month (the winter month as per the Hindu calendar) — sometime around the 22nd-23rd of December. Started way back in the 19th century, Poush Mela became an important platform for the artisans of nearby villages specializing in beautiful handicrafts to sell their wares to people gathered from all parts of India and abroad. Poush Mela, also, became the epicenter of local music, especially Baul songs. Both the artisans and the singers flock from numerous villages, keen to showcase their skills, knowing fully well that here is opportunity to reach out to the ‘culture and tradition-seeking’ city rats.
Arts & Crafts @Poush Mela: Just as I had dreamt, expected, here was a treasure mine of everything beautiful made with jute, cotton, natural products/fabric. Lovers of Nature-products are sure to lose their heads out here!! Choose from earthen wares and statues made of terracotta; to beautiful and never-out-of-fashion jute bags, sandals, home decor items; to the elegant Kantha sarees, stoles and fabrics; to statement-making bamboo products; to a wide range of jewellery. Poush Mela has it all. You indulge yourself with bags and bags full of impossible-to-resist wares, with scant thought as to how you will accommodate them in the suitcase. Once back at the hotel though and you stare alternatively at your loot and your suitcase, amused at how “will I go back with all these”!!! Hey buy another bag if necessary, Poush Mela doesn’t happen every day!!
There isn’t much scope of bargaining at the Mela. Maybe if you buy ‘way too many stuff’ from one stall, you could still attempt a 10-20 percent discount, but if you happen to buy just one or two product from every stall, bargaining, pretty much, won’t get you anywhere. However, take heart. The products are reasonable priced and for Mumbaikars like us, we felt we got everything at throwaway prices!!!
Performing Arts @Poush Mela: And the other attraction is the music and dance and the plays. Programs are lined up for the whole day, with Shenai recitals as early as 5 in the morning at Shantiniketan. The day sees students of Vishwa Bharati taking the stage for Tagore songs/works. Evenings are mostly reserved for the folk songs, the Baul songs. The Bauls are the famous wandering minstrels of Bengal, known for their songs on Lalon. And finally, the open-stage plays are for 10pm in the night. We were amazed by the sheer scale of the folk programs. Think music from the soil, and this is where you get to hear it. Mesmerising. Intoxicating.
Remember, there are no chairs or benches kept for seating – everybody sit in the ground to listen to the Bauls. It is advisable to carry old newspapers if cleanliness is an issue for you. Vendors go around selling peanuts and tea. You don’t mind both in the chilly December evening.
Food & Snacks @Poush Mela: You’d be spoilt for choices. We hogged on Patishaptas ( Pancakes made with rice, milk and coconut) and steamed Rice Buns with Khejur Gur (Date Jaggery). There are many many food stalls. But if you have children under the age of 5-6, we’d recommend you carry their food and water. Hygiene is not a priority here. We ate only at our hotel though.
Much as we enjoyed the Mela, we hated it too. Shocked? Yes, a number of things were a big game -spoiler, much of which has given the Mela a bad name over the years. Read our next blog to find out what they are — Dos and Don’ts @Poush Mela, Shantiniketan
Plan a trip to Shantinektan during Poush Mela in December with our compilation of itinerary, sight-seeing suggestions, Mitali homestay review, shopping and food recommendations. Read the posts in the link — Best Shantiniketan Itinerary and Blogs