The Indian festival of colors, Holi, happened to be on a Friday this year and what it meant to me was that I had a long weekend to be planned for. In today’s times of Netflix, planning a long weekend is no longer a concern as it is just too easy and convenient to binge watch multiple TV series over the weekend. But the idea of this travel cum photography cum experience blog has been on a simmer since a long time and I wanted to make the most of this. So, we decided to visit this ethnic village, Chokhi Dhani at Sonipat, Haryana.
We checked for the distance and travel time for Chokhi Dhani from Gurgaon, such that we reach there by 5 PM which is when it opens. Since it was Holi (a public holiday), we had anticipated that there would be less traffic than usual and were pleasantly surprised to see virtually no traffic. Infamous routes like Dhaula Kuan, Pitampura could have been testing grounds for the latest Porsche 911 GT3! Anyway, we reached Chokhi Dhani 30 minutes in advance of what we had planned. The number of cars in the parking lot gave us a reassurance that our visit hopefully will not be a disappointment. Just before entering, the sight of a young monkey swinging joyously on a suspended rope made me realize how urban settlements can never invoke feelings of being close to nature.
Staying true to the Rajasthani hospitality ethos of Padharo Mhare Des which means “Welcome to my land”, a lady welcomes you with a tilak (vermilion powder with a dab of water, applied on the forehead) post which you queue up for the tickets. Entry for an adult is Rs. 700, this is more like a cover charge that includes snacks, folk dance performances, camel rides, fun attractions and dinner. Upon entering, you get a welcome drink (being Holi, we had an option of Jaljeera and Thandai – which is strongly associated with holi). The first thing you notice is the vastness of the recreated village. Multiple activities, such as camel ride, bullock cart ride, head massage, puppet show, pottery classes and folk dance performances, try to seek your attention. After a long ride, we realized we hadn’t eaten in a long time and headed towards the snacks counter (few snack items were included in the cover charge and few were to be paid for). It is an assorted offering of pakoras, kachoris and pani-puri. Post our refill, we heard activities pick up at a small amphitheatre where a group of artists were about to perform the famous Rajasthani dance form, Ghoomar. The dance is performed by women who dance to music orchestrated by their band members with instruments like dhol and harmonium. While dancing, these ladies also balance earthen pots, sometimes lit with fire, on their heads. It takes years of practice to perfect the art and this appreciation led me to have a quick chat with one of the performers, Sapna. She hails from Jaipur, Rajasthan and has been performing here since 4 years. Her husband was a part of the band and the couple also had a kid who is always a part of the audience!
This is followed by a fire breather who spices up the act by his antics. They also pull out members from the audience to join them while dancing.
There are lots of activities particularly for anxious and ever-energetic kids like camel rides, a drive on tractor that blasts out loud music, adventure rides, games, puppet show and other traditional dance forms such as Chari and Kala Ghoda.
To sum it up, this visit to Chokhi Dhani is something that should be experienced once and particularly families with kids would be able to make the most of the visit.