The Bhimthadi Jatra is back! I wrote about this arts and crafts fair in Pune this January. After having an exciting time there, I was looking forward to the next one.
There may be some confusion because my earlier post is titled Bhimthadi Jatra 2014 and the event is back again in the same calendar year. But this particular post is an account of the Jatra from December 2014.
A little background about the Bhimthadi Jatra – you will get a lot of detail in my earlier post, and in this post I mostly want to focus on what is new or different in this year. Every year, many Mahila Bachat Gats, small groups formed to generate jobs and encourage entrepreneurship among women in rural areas, convene at the event of the year. They display and sell their products which range from handicrafts, the finest spun cloth, grains and spices, and other exotic products that you would be hard pressed to see in a store around you. They are so unique and different that you feel the urge to sample and buy every different thing. Reminds me of my first time in Trader Joe’s. After being a regular Walmart shopper, that too in a small university town, my first visit to Trader Joe’s was jaw dropping. Believe me, I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore! (Nothing wrong with Kansas, and in fact, I lived very close to Kansas).
The Bhimthadi Jatra is on until Sunday December 14, 2014. I chose to visit on Friday so that I could write about it early. There are definitely many differences compared to last year, and I am going to sum it all up in bullet points. I would rather post a lot of photos!
Please note: This post contains 12+ photos so it will take time to load. Be patient :).
BhimThadi Jatra December 2014 – Highlights
- Admission fee is 20 bucks per person.
- Car parking is quite far from the entrance this year, so you might want to drop off precious cargo early.
- Bullock cart rides are still on, and so are camels!
- The red carpet is rolled out. The place is cleaner and security is abundant. There is a redesign as far as layout is concerned. The performance stages are moved to one side, and so is the crafts section.
- Stalls are fewer in number, maybe half of last time. Reason could be higher costs perhaps.
- A lot of produce is being sold, like fresh vegetables and fruits. I wonder why?
- Banana Chips rule! Almost every other stall seems to be selling banana wafers or chips of some kind.
- There seem to be fewer people from the interior or from far off places unlike last year. Many stalls seem to be set up by folks in and around the city, so there is a lesser ‘folk’ feel.
- Very few loose products are being sold. The stress seems to be on packed products, and if you know the right place, you could get these in stores too. Last year there were spice mixes that were coarse ground, or a lot of hand made things.
- Food – Food rules! So much that I am writing a whole paragraph on it. This is a food blog after all!
Food at the Bhimthadi Jatra December 2014
There is a big section for food, and this time the tables are covered with awnings. Today was a hot and humid day, and the place was moderately crowded. It is hard to get seats, so be prepared to sit on the floor picnic style if you visit on the weekends.
The vegetarian section was separate like last year, and all the hot favorites were available. Most of the food is hot and spicy. Wait, did I say hot and spicy? Multiply that a few times over :).
We ordered one of most things on offer from different stalls so we got a sampling of the food as well as different recipes, since these food stalls are set up by people coming from different villages. Hardly any of these are professionals from the food business. They are simple folk who serve what they usually eat.
Lunch was kicked off with some fried snacks, the ever popular pakoras or fritters. We had Khekda Bhaji or Onion Pakoras, spinach pakoras and potato pakoras. These were served with a peanut based chutney. Another fried snack which was very nostalgic was the Shegaon Kachori.
Shegaon is a place of pilgrimage in Maharashtra, known for Shri Gajanan Maharaj. It is situated near Akola and is on the railway route from Mumbai – Nagpur – Kolkata or Pune-Nagpur which is a very busy route. I have traveled these routes at least a hundred times while growing up, and the Shegaon Kachori was always a much awaited snack. The kachori has a flour shell and stuffing, but this particular one is flat with a yellow lentil stuffing. The Shegaon kachori at the Bhimthadi is a must try if you have never tasted one.
The next item was thalipeeth which is a kind of pancake made from mixed grains and lentils. We regularly make it at home so it is not really a novelty. The thalipeeth tasted good and was served with kharda, a hot chili sambal and a hot pickle.
Zhunka/Pithla Bhakari is another Maharashtrian staple and so it was a must try. The Bajra bhakri was thin and huge, the zhunka was more of a pithla and there was stuffed eggplant or bharli vangi too. These are more items that feature regularly on the home menu but every one has a different way of making it, and food always tastes so much better when eaten in the open air, shared with family and friends!
Food always tastes so much better when eaten in the open air, shared with family and friends!
The Maas Vadi is a delicacy I have never tried to make. ‘Maas’ literally means meat. I think this is like a mock meat dish, made very hot and spicy to mimic a hot mutton curry, perhaps. The Maas Vadi is made with besan or chickpea flour and is stuffed with a coconut and spice mixture. It was served with a spicy soup/curry that was to be used as a dipping sauce.
Last but certainly not the least, dessert! The Sholapuri Mande won me over last year, and they were a must try. These are very similar to the puran poli with a slight difference. They are made right there in front of your eyes over open wood fires and roasted on inverted earthen pots. They have a sweet stuffing of chickpeas and sugar and are generously smothered with ghee.
So there I was, hot and roasting in the sun, sweating with the humidity with my tongue burning from all the spicy food. But it was fun and I’d do it again anytime.
I hope I have vetted your appetite and have you craving all this yummy food. For some of you, this may be a trip down memory lane. For others, it is a chance to learn about culture and meet people who perhaps live a very different life than those of us in these concrete jungles. The jatra is also a great place to introduce kids to something different.
Whether you are a foodie or not, the Bhimthadi Jatra is a must visit. Don’t forget to carry a wad of cash because you won’t be swiping any plastic there.
Look for this wall art when you get there, and add your own! 🙂
Support women entrepreneurs of the Mahila Bachat Gat. Visit the Bhimthadi Jatra!