DatesStart Date: 20-11-2024 End Date: 05-12-2024
LocationSonepur , Patna, Bihar
Sonepur Mela is one of its kinds and famous for being the largest cattle fair of Asia. Also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela, this annually held grand show of cattle is the pride of north Bihar. The fair is held during the auspicious occasion of Kartik Poornima in the month of November annually. Not only cattle, but the fair is famous for selling breeds of dogs, elephants, birds and camels as major attractions of this vibrant ruler fair for a fortnight that stretches till a month too.
The fair is a wonderful display of spirituality and animal trading balancing both perfectly. Street magicians, religious gurus and tantric, pilgrims, snack stalls, handicrafts, amusement rides, circus performers, and dancing girls all create a carnival-like no other.
The fair dates back to the era of India’s first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who used to buy elephants and horses from here for his army. As per Hindu mythology, the fair also commemorates the intervention of Lord Vishnu to end a great curse and a long fight between Gaj (elephant) and Grah (crocodile) symbolizing the forest and the water respectively. It says that Lord Vishnu eventually saved the elephant after he was being attacked by the crocodile by bathing in the river Gandak, near which the fair takes place.
The only place of worship is the Hariharnath Temple that is swarmed by the devotees after the holy bath at the meeting point of Ganges and Gandak rivers. Mythologies say that the temple was built by Lord Rama while he was on the way to King Janak’s court to propose marriage to his daughter Sita.
Sonepur Mela is mainly dedicated as a trading ground for animals and cattle since ages, though there have been several changes in the passing years. Many farm animals can be bought and sold at the Sonepur mela including different breeds of dogs, cows, buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, rabbits, goats and camels. Many varieties of birds and poultry are also traded.
However, the main attraction of the fair was the Haathi Bazaar or the elephant market (till 2004) where elephants are lined up for sale. Owing to the strict enforcement of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, trade of elephant has been banned. Now-a-days, elephants are lined up only as attraction, and not for sale.
Though the fair is dedicatedly a trading space for cattle and animal, it is growing as a budding area for commercial hub in the recent years. The aim is to attract tourists from domestic as well as international backdrop and hence, Bihar Tourism took over its organization, including tourist accommodations, in 2012.
Since few years, there have been extra stalls for selling clothes, agricultural equipments, automobiles, gadgets, and fast-moving consumer goods. There are certain food plazas too selling known branded chains. The fair also witnesses sports competitions, martial arts and different types of cultural programs to pull bigger crowd.
Though elephants are banned for trade, you can see, touch and feed these beautifully decorated animals. Besides, this vibrant fair dominates with different variety of birds, poultries, cattle, the stalls of which all smeared up in the colorful attires of a fancy handicraft store.
Apart from the animal buying-selling point, Sonepur Fair has a religious wing too. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit the fair to take a sacred dip at the confluence of river Ganges and its tributary river Gandak. The pilgrims believe that the sacred water of these rivers wash off their sins and purifies their inner selves.
Bihar has covered a long way up to improve its law and order, and is now in the world map as a fast developing tourist destination. During the Sonepur Mela, there is a heavy police presence and security guards as allotted by Bihar Tourism Tourist Village. Sonepur Mela is something that is unique, distinct and almost untouched since centuries to maintain its exclusivity. It is among those must-visit and must-experience carnivals that are going to leave the reminiscences fresh for long.
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