| Place: Sonepur, Bihar
Significance: Cattle Fair
The famed cattle fair is held at Sonepur, 30kms from Patna in Northern Bihar on the banks of the River Ganga. During this month-long fair, cattle decorated for the occasion throng the venues of the town.
The full moon day of the month of Kartik (November) is regarded as one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus. Sonepur situated on the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Gandak, has the reverence of a blessed ground. A bath at the confluence and a visit to the Hariharnath temple here is the aim for thousands of devotees on the Kartika Purnima day. The ‘Hariharnath Kshetra Mela’ is now more known for the cattle fair held during this time.
Gajendhra Moksha legend is associated with the temple in Sonepur. It involves the story of king Indrayamuna and the Gandharva chief Huhu, who were turned into an elephant and a crocodile respectively by the curse of great sages Agasthya and Dewala muni. One day the elephant’s leg was caught by the crocodile. It is said that both of them fought hard for many years with their herds. But ultimately the King Elephant weakened and prayed to the supreme god Vishnu (Hari) to save him. Vishnu heard his prayer and cut down the crocodile with his ‘Chakra’. But the touch of the chakra released Huhu from the curse. Vishnu also released Indrayamuna from his curse and took him to his aboard ‘Vaikuntha’.
The sprawling mela ground here with the pulsating market has the widest possible range of cattle and commodities. The array of shops sells all sorts of merchandise. One of the most attractive sight is the elephants lined up for sale. Sonepur Fair is the only one of its kind where such a large number of elephants are sold. These are purchased mainly by forest departments and people involved with logging operations. Apart from elephants, a large number of cattle and horses are also brought to the fair for sale. Various folk shows, games and jugglers can be seen in the fair.
How to get there
Air : Nearest Airport is at Patna, 30 km from Sonepur. Patna is linked to all major cities by Indian Airlines and Sahara flights.
|Sonepur Fair – A Tradition through the Ages|
|A traditional Fair that has remained pristine in its charm through the ages it is also the largest cattle fair in Asia.
Legend has it that two brothers, devotees of Lord Vishnu, one wily and the other honest, cast a spell upon each other making one an elephant and the other a crocodile. On a Kartik Purnima day, the honest elephant went to the confluence of the holy river Ganga and Gandak to bathe and was attacked by the wily crocodile. Lord Vishnu himself intervened and helped the good triumph over the evil. With Lord Vishnu’s help the elephant prevailed upon the Crocodile.
Boats at the river banks, a large no. of elephants, camels, horses, cows, buffaloes, oxen, goats, dogs, cats & birds for sale, loosely robed sadhus (holy men), freshly washed animals, shops on the pavements overflowing with goods, swirling crowds in colourful dresses and joyful moods, curious onlookers-such are the scenes that dominate this wonderful fair.
A unique Fair in which imposing Indian elephants are the prime attraction. The central draw of the fair is cattle trade. All species of birds, poultry, bovines and beasts of burden specially elephants, have a market here.
The post-harvest season for paddy crops coincides with this fair. Sales are brisk in food grains, readymade garments, agricultural implements, weapons, furniture, perfumes, costume jewellery, handcrafted folk toys and utensils in wood, copper, brass and steel.
The fair entertains visitors with ‘nautanki’- a typical traditional musical drama performance. Other attractions are the circus, magic shows, fortune-telling parrots, and pedlers of fancy goods.
The Sonepur Mela is indeed A Fair to Remember, year after year.
Fair Duration: A fortnight following the first full moon day in the Hindu month of Kartik Shukla Paksh (Kartik Purnima), which occurs in the period October/ November. Precise duration to be checked up every January.
How to reach: Sonepur is 25 kms across the river Ganga from Patna, the capital city of Bihar, which receives direct daily flights from Delhi and Calcutta, and is a major railway junction also linked by road to important towns on the Calcutta-Delhi route.
Where to stay: Fully furnished Swiss-type Cottages (with attached western toilets) in the Tourist village set up at the Sonepur Fair grounds, supported by catering and security facilities, and offering complimentary elephant ride.
For detailed information, accommodation and transport bookings please contact:
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) Tourist Bhawan,
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