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Gwalior ka Mela - Khajala and giant Papads at the Gwalior Trade Fair

Note: This post is reprised out of my memories in the winter of 2014, spent in Gwalior.

About a month ago, I noticed a hive of activity in the otherwise sleepy city of Gwalior - bemusing if catchy, announcements  welcomed you to try everything from a Car to Chaat Masala at the annual Gwalior Mela.

Soon, almost everyone was talking about it. I learnt that the fair was started nearly a century ago by the Maharaja of Gwalior, to promote trade in the region and is regarded as one of the biggest trade fairs in India. Locals tell me that up until a few years ago, all goods sold at the fair were exempt from sales tax.

The mela is indeed huge; with stalls spread across the sprawling mela grounds, you need a good 5-6 hours to see it all. Everything from cars to kitchenware and horses are on sale here.

An insider told me about leather jackets from Kashmiri leather stalls. Kashmiri leather is regarded to be of very high quality - grass fed lambs, grazing the Himalayas yield some of the best hides around,  apart from the unbeatable Gostabha and Rogan Josh of course.

I was not disappointed at the stalls, the lambskin jackets were as smooth as butter and warm enough to tide you through Srinagar winters. They were well built and had all the modern designs - Bombers, Motos, Military and at a fraction of the cost. I picked up a nice black Moto jacket, though I doubt it'll be any use once I get back to Chennai.

 I had to try out one of the numerous Khajala and Papad stalls dotting the fair. Khajala is a big cake made from layers of fried dough, soaked in sugar syrup and then topped up with mava and tutti-fruity. Crispy like a fried pastry sheet but syrupy like a Jalebi. The syrup had a smoky sweetness to it, from to the coal fire it was heated on. 

Khajala

Adjacent to the Khajala, I saw rows of papads stacked in the tri-color - saffron, green and white - next to a huge kadai. The vendor would fry up fresh papads on your order and the papads would almost magically expand to 3 times their original size. I got the saffron and green ones, which are tomato and spinach papads - the huge fried papads, once dusted with the tangy masala were delicious. They would make for the perfect bar snacks, after I figure out frying them in my puny fry pan.

Notice the size of the papad, relative to the folded full-size newspaper

The Gwalior Trade Fair is held every year, between the months of December to January.

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