When Haryana was first carved out of the composite state of Punjab, it did not inherit any significant tourist attractions. Neither had nature gone out of her way to endow it with beauty. But these drawbacks notwithstanding, today the state figures prominently on the tourist map of India with as many as 43 superbly planned and executed tourist complexes meant to be peaceful homes for special pampering. The popular tourist resort of Surajkund, a bare eight kilometers south of Delhi, is an ideal getaway for those who don't have much time but wish to make the most of what they have.
The approach road to Surajkund passes through some distinctive scenery. In parts, the terrain, with its low hills and ravines, and shallow, boulder-strewn depressions and escarpments of rock, reminds you of the Hindi blockbuster Sholay. The vegetation is typically dry and thorny scrub jungle. This is, however, no dacoit country but merely scattered spurs of the Aravalli Hills.
Surajkund has a rich past behind it. In fact, it is Delhi's earliest existing record of past glories. Tucked away at the backdrop of the Aravallis, it has a kund or pool with an amphitheatre around it. The pool originally had a sun temple by its side. The temple is now in ruins but the kund still stands. All of these are said to have been built in the 10th century A.D. by the Tomar chieftain Suraj Pal.
Legends surround the pool. One such legend would have us believe that it was built for the daughter of Suraj Pal. Another avers that it had miraculous healing powers but these latter claims have never been substantiated.
For a long time Surajkund was just another picnic option around Delhi. You drove down with a packed lunch or else carried a battery of pots and pans and cooked on site, had your meal and wandered around the place, frozen in time and serene beyond measure but sans amenities. Things have since changed dramatically. Now Surajkund is as comfortable a weekend getaway as you could wish for, with opportunities to relax in any one of a whole range of hotels, designed to suit a whole range of pockets.
At Surajkund, a five-star stay means the best of both worlds. You wake up in the cushioned comfort of your room and emerge to hear birds chirping on the trees. Your day draws to a close beside the hotel pool, watching the sun sink silently to rest. In between you visit the excellent health club, indulge in a luxurious sauna bath or a vigorous body massage followed by a good splash back in the pool. If you are so inclined, you could play golf, for there's a nine-hole golf course complete with a putting green. Currently riding a tremendous wave of popularity among aspiring executives in India, golf has many votaries at Surajkund. But take heart. It isn't all action at Surajkund. You could as well spend your day relaxing under a colorful garden umbrella, opening your eyes only occasionally to contemplate nature.
A short walk away from the kund and you come to a fringe of trees half sheltering from view the beautiful Peacock Lake, with a variety of boats skimming the surface. You could take your pick. Among the other attractions is a terra-cotta park placed up a hillside. And spirited rock climbers have also found a challenge in the basalt rocks around Surajkund complex.
Landscaping had added greatly to the charm of Surajkund. There are grassy slopes rolling away from the roadside and undulations where you least expect them. Kutcha paths and pebbled paths and dense shrubbery with bougainvilleas tumbling over trees. Bridges arch across rivulets that suddenly end in pools. And in season, flowers rise to a peak in beds scattered all over the place. Some of this came into being when Surajkund was first turned into a tourist complex. Much more was added when Surajkund became the chosen venue of the annual Crafts Mela, a mega event that churns up wave after wave of visitors from the four corners of the country. The mela is shaped around a different theme every year.
Everything about the mela is just right! For a start, the weather. The mela is held in the first half of February when the air at Surajkund is at its balmiest. The location: all of 23 sprawling, sylvan acres. The products: the best handpicked crafts from all over the country, with craftsmen showing you just how it is done. The display: no shut-in, showcase affair this, but an extended visual treat arranged in a rural ambience, in thatched huts dotted all over the place. And let us not forget the food. You won't forget it either. Only there is such a variety, with each state chipping in to do its best, that you'll take quite a while making up your mind what to ask for.
As they say, the Surajkund Mela is a celebration of India's finest handlooms and handicrafts, ranging from wickerwork baskets and mats to silk saris, shawls, carpets and metalware and much, much more besides. Nothing on display is machine made. It is handwork all the way. The mela does a splendid job of bringing workmen out of oblivion and face to face with buyers. While giving a new lease of life to crafts that have been languishing, it revives the glorious Indian tradition of respecting craftsmen and extending to them the patronage they so richly deserved. An added draw at the mela is the no-bargaining tag. No wonder participants flock to it from all the Indian states and union territories.
There's so much to see and do at Surajkund but don't forget the Badhkal Lake Complex, a mere nine kilometers away. Badhkal offers a charming, sylvan setting, with camel rides, fishing and swimming thrown in. There are restaurants and a motel as well as the promise of a few hours of blessed reprieve from the rush that is life.