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Stock Up On Clothes & Handicrafts At This Weekend Mela Held In A Forest In Shantiniketan


    Head out to this weekly haat for kantha saris and fabrics to leather bags, jewelry, music instruments, and even local, organic produce.

    What Is It?

    Khoai Mela {or ‘Shonibarer Haat‘ as it is popularly known} is a weekly afternoon bazaar set up by local artisans in Shantiniketan. It takes place on Saturdays in the khoai region, which is a natural canyon caused by the effect of wind and water erosion. This mela is scattered over a vast dry forest area, the stalls nestles alongside the sonajhuri {acacia auriculiformis} trees. “Sonajhuri” means “drops of gold” and the trees are so named because in winter, they shed brilliant yellow-gold flowers.

    Why Should I Go?

    This mela is famous for Birnhum handicrafts which are sold at wholesale prices by the craftsmen themselves {so please don’t bargain}. This is the season to be there as you will come across live baul music and dances every 100 meters.

    Tell Me More

    There’s a lot you can pick up here — from Bengal’s famous kantha stitch blouse and kurta pieces to kantha bags {starting from INR 150}, stoles and saris. If you love khadi, you can pick up tons of nice kurtas in bright solids, stripes sand prints for the summer {for a mere INR 200 each}. Another summer fave — wraparound skirts — are for INR 350-500.

    They have jewelry in every form and design {wooden, terracotta, stones} starting just at just INR 50 for earrings and INR 100-300 for neckpieces. I loved the leather jewelry boxes {for INR 250 to 450 for the big ones}. They come in all shapes {octagons, round and square} with Shantiniketan’s world-famous leather crafting, embossed batik work and traditional patterns. You must pick up a few of the the papier mache items like the masks and items for house decor.

    How Can I Get There?

    You have a number of options — via road, bus or trains.  I took the Kolkata Haldibari Express which dropped me to Bolpur station in two and a half hours.  A ticket costs just INR 100!

    Anything Else?

    There are many options between hotels, homestays and resorts. But during the peak season {December to February}, it’s better to book ahead of time. Shakuntala is a fine example of what it’s like to be in a traditional Bengali mud house and one of Shantiniketan’s best stay options.  The restaurant is run by a local family and offers unlimited food with veg and non-veg combinations of authentic Bengali cuisine at INR 200 and 300. It is situated very close to the Khaoi Mela and is a famous pit stop for tea and lunch for weary shoppers. For more acco options, check here, here and here.