INTERNATIONAL MANGO FESTIVAL 2012
CITY: NEW DELHI
DATES: JULY 6 to 8
VENUE: DILLI HAAT PITAMPURA
ENTRY FEE: Rs. 20 for adults; Rs. 10 for children
TIME: 11 am to 9 pm
There are few things going in favour of Delhi when it comes to summers. After a pleasant yet testing winter and a blink-and-miss spring, the city goes on to experience four to five months of intense summers. The mercury hovers around 42 degrees Centigrade and the sun beats down on the capital. And yet summer is when Delhi is a riot of colours, fragrances and moods. It brings with it the heady aromas of khus and motiya; a deluge of shades of yellow when the amaltas blooms in the leafy neighbourhoods of South Delhi; the sight of happy youngsters diving into the shallow pools of India Gate, the city’s iconic monument, and, last but certainly not the least, the taste of the king of fruits, mangoes!
The relish with which the city savours mangoes is a sight to behold. Braving the scorching sun, the young and the old flock to the thousands of markets peppered across Delhi’s length and breadth, haggling with vendors and going home happy with a supply of mangoes. Restaurants are quick to cash in on this mango mania: turn the pages of any newspaper supplement and you will find announcements of food festivals and promotions centred around the mango. The fruit becomes the baker’s favourite as most confectioneries dole out mango desserts; cafes churn out beverages with generous portions of the fruit, and even meals at home usually end with a platter of cut mangoes. The modest vanilla ice-cream is almost always sold out in summers, given its phenomenal compatibility with the succulent fruit.
Being in proximity with some of the country’s highest producers of mangoes, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is a boon for the mango-loving populace of Delhi. This is not to say that mangoes from deep down South, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bengal don’t make it to Delhi. Just the variety of mangoes calls for a trip to Delhi this season. The culmination of Delhi’s love affair with the fruit comes in the form of an exclusive festival, organised every year in July by Delhi Tourism. Eagerly awaited, the International Mango Festival is now in its 24th year. The benchmark of its popularity is the footfall it gets from Delhi residents, not just tourists. Attractive billboards go up all over the city weeks before the start of the festival, luring everyone with the prospect of this calorie-laden indulgence.
Once inside the venue, the attractively laid out open-air Dilli Haat in Pitampura, a medley of sights and sounds greet you. It’s like walking into a mango market. Look in any direction and you will see piles and heaps of the fruit, in different hues, shapes and sizes. Decorated with mango motifs and colourful balloons, the atmosphere at the Festival is like that of a carnival. Walk ahead and you will hear rounds of thundering applause. The ovation is usually directed at a contestant with his/her face buried in the skin of a mango while trying to eat the pulp at lightning speed. Groups of enthusiasts are also found crowding stalls where you can learn a recipe or two with mango as the main ingredient. From the humble mango lassi to the more exotic mango salsa, there is a lot to learn about.
If you believe you know your fruit well, it’s time you test your ‘mango quotient’ at this year’s festival. The three-day mango bonanza also includes a spellbinding display of over 500 varieties of the fruit, as well as a slogan writing contest and a quiz.
Sampling the fruit as you wend your way through the maze of stalls and eager visitors is an experience that only this exclusive festival can offer you. This, however, may come for a small price but there are also many vendors who put out platters of freshly cut fruit for free sampling. And if you think you can grow your own mango, then there are saplings on sale for your kitchen garden. Until the first fruit appears, you can always feast on the delicious pickles, jams, chutneys and spreads on sale at the Festival.
Apart from the popular commercial varieties of dussehri, fazli, langda, sindhuri, kesar, chausa, banganpalli, totapuri, Neelam, safeda, Amrapali, Husnara and so on, there are several unheard of types on display. Some to make it to the last festival include sadabahaar, dakwala, elaichidana, angoori tapka and even Sheila, a fruit dedicated to Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi.
If you still have room for more mango-related stories (this, after doing the rounds of the mind-boggling display), strike a conversation with veterans like Padmashri Haji Kaleemullah Khan of Malihabad, Uttar Pradesh. He is the man who is credited with growing more than 300 varieties on a single tree! Hailing from a family that is almost synonymous with growing the dussehri, Kaleemullah’s experimentations in grafting began in his early teens. Needless to say, it’s not just the fruit that is the essence of the Festival. Tales, trivia and legends go a long way in adding flavour to the overall picture.
So if you want to earn your stripes as a mango lover, the International Mango Festival of Delhi is where you should be headed. If you are staying in a homestay in Delhi as your hosts to arrange transport to the venue. Your host may be able to accompany you to the Festival, helping you choose the best variety of fruits on sale and even striking a good bargain. Back at the homestay, you can also request for a cooking demonstration of recipes using mangoes or even a meal with only mango delicacies.
Related articles and links:
Delhi destination guide
Delhi homestay collection
Mango Mania in Maharashtra: Mango Sreekhand Recipe
Picnic Spots in Delhi
Transport in Delhi – Getting Around on the Metro
Things to do in Delhi and the National Capital Region
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