Cover Image Credit: Sonepurmela.co.in
You must have heard of Pushkar Mela or Surajkund Mela that are fairly popular among Indians and receive thousands of visitors every year. But have you heard of the biggest cattle fair in Asia? Yes! Sonepur Mela, held in Bihar on the junction of River Ganga and River Gandak, is the biggest cattle fair that is organized in the whole of Asia. The fair is popular since ancient eras for trading animals, especially elephants and horses. With a few amendments made in the fair, it is now visited by millions of people from all over the world. If you wish to head to this mela this year, then you have come to the right place. From dates and history to main attractions and accommodations, you will find everything about Sonepur Mela here.
About Sonepur Mela
Also known as Hariharnath Kshetra Sonepur Mela, this fair was started to worship the Lord Hariharnath (Shiva & Vishnu). As it attracts several people from all over Asia, it is the largest cattle fair to be hosted in Asia. The fair is hosted for 15 days and carries on for a month. The main purpose of this fair is the trading of animals, which held a great importance in the ancient era. The fair is celebrated on the banks of Gandak River in Bihar and it is held in the month of November or December of every year.
History Of Sonepur Mela In Bihar
The origin of the Sonepur Fair can be dated back to the 4th century BC when Chandragupta Maurya, an Indian king, used to rule the area. Initially, Hajipur used to be the site of Sonepur Mela when only puja was performed at the famous Harihar Nath Temple. It is believed that this temple was built by Lord Rama while he was going to King Janak’s court for the marriage proposal with Sita. Since then, this temple is of great significance, especially among the locals.
The fair is also organized in the remembrance of Lord Vishnu’s intervention amid the longstanding fight between a crocodile (grah) and an elephant (gaj) in Hindu mythology. The battle was a symbol of water fighting with forest. While the elephant was bathing in the River Gandak, a crocodile attacked it. To resolve the matter, Lord Vishnu had to intervene and save the elephant.
It is during the reign of Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, that the real fair started in Sonepur with several performances, stalls, etc. The main focus of the fair used to be the trading of animals like elephants and birds. But with the strict enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972, the trading of elephants was banned. Now, they are lined up in the fair as an attraction and are not for sale.
Dates For Sonepur Mela
The dates for Sonepur Mela are picked according to the Hindu Calendar. So, the mela commences in the Kartik month on the full moon day also called Kartik Poornima. It usually falls in either November or December according to the Gregorian Calendar. Sonepur Mela 2020 is from 20th November to 5th December.
Major Attractions Of Sonepur Mela
A visit to Sonepur Mela remains incomplete if you do not indulge in these experiences or pay a visit to the main attractions of the fair. So, take a look at the list and make sure not to miss out on them this year.
1. Hariharnath Temple
This is the same temple where the origin of this fair can be traced back to. Devoted to Lord Hariharnath, it is believed that this is the same site where the lord settled the battle between an elephant and a crocodile. The structure of the temple has deteriorated over the years and the present structure that we witness was built in the Mughal era by Raja Ram Narain. On the day of Kartik Poornima, devotees from several places arrive here to offer their prayers to Lord Hariharnath and take a dip in the holy confluence of River Gandak and Ganga.
2. Sonepur Cattle Fair
How can a visit to this fair be complete without witnessing the cattle fair, the main reason behind the Sonepur Mela? Even if you do not wish to trade animals, you can witness how elephants are decorated for the fair. Besides them, you will also see breeds of horses, donkeys, dogs, rabbits, buffaloes, goats, camel, and ponies. Poultry and birds are also available for sale at this fair. As a wide array of animals are traded here, it has attracted and still entices international visitors from Japan, Kazakhstan, France, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, and US.
The Sonepur fair is not limited to cattle fair and rituals but there is an active side to this. You will find several sports that are organized for people. Some of them are Kushti, Dangal, Cricket, Football, Volleyball, Handball, Rassa-Kassi, Rugby, Kabbaddi, and more. The best part of these activities is that they are organized for both females and males. If you are interested in sports then you must enroll in it before the fair begins.
4. Ganga Maha Aarti
Disclaimer: The image is for representation purposes only.
One of the best things to witness here in the evening is the Maha Aarti which is held on the confluence of River Gandak and Ganga. Also known as Narayani River, the evolution of this river has been mentioned in Holy Shiva Purana in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. River Gandak begins from the glaciers that are located on the Nepal-Tibet border and it passes through Nepal, Royal Chitwan National Park, and Valmiki Tiger Reserves, after which it finally meets River Ganga. In the evening, when the ghat is lit up with diyas and lamps, the view is mesmerizingly amazing to be missed.
Stays Near Sonepur Mela
As millions of people arrive at Sonepur to attend the Mela, the Bihar Tourism offers accommodation in woven straw huts and camps with attached western bathrooms. The camps are placed near the fair only so that it does not take long to reach the venue. Apart from this, there are arrangements in BSTDC Tourist Bungalow where you can book rooms or dormitory beds and get hotel-like services. As there will be limited rooms, it is better to book them as early as possible. Moreover, there are a few Government Guest Houses which are available for government officers.
How To Reach Sonepur
One can reach Sonepur in several ways like via train, by plane or by road. Check these options out and see which one will be the most convenient one for you.
By Air: The closest airport is located in Patna that goes by the name Lok Nayak Jayaprakash International Airport. Since it is situated 31 kilometers away from Sonepur, you will have to take a taxi to get to the destination.
By Train: As Sonepur is equipped with a functioning railway station, traveling by train is the best option for visitors. Besides Sonepur Junction Railway Station, there are other railway stations in Patna and Hajipur. Sonepur forms a vital part of the East Central Railway which is why it is connected to several nearby cities. If not direct trains, then you can easily find indirect trains to reach Sonepur. It is about 872 kilometers away from Guwahati Junction and 1,088 kilometers away from New Delhi. So, you will have to change trains to reach the destination.
By Road: One can reach Sonepur via NH 31 road and it is well-connected with nearby cities like Muzaffarpur, Chapra, Patna, Hajipur, and many more.
Tips For Visiting Sonepur Mela
Here a few points to keep in mind while attending the famous Sonepur Mela in Bihar –
- On the day of Kartik Poornima, avoid crowded areas and do not carry costly items with you. It is recommended to stay in your group.
- Make sure that you pack the right kind of footwear as the fair is all about walking and exploring and you might not want to hurt your feet. Also, do a little bit of workout to make your legs ready for intense walking.
- Avoid carrying valuables like mobiles, cameras, and other things.
- Book your all tickets in advance otherwise, you might not get hold of them later.
- Check the schedule beforehand and plan your day accordingly.
You can also visit the official website of Sonepur Mela to get more information.
With so many things to witness and so many days to spend here, one can never get bored of their visit to Sonepur Mela. So, without any delay, plan your trip to Bihar in November and make sure that you do not miss the fair this year. Book your rooms and tickets in advance and start building physical stamina as you will need it to explore the vast area. Also, do not miss your chances to indulge in activities if you are an adventure enthusiast.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sonepur Mela
Where is Sonepur Mela held?
Sonepur Mela is held every year in Bihar in Sonepur which is located at the confluence of River Ganga and Gandak. It is celebrated in the months of November and December for 15 to 30 days.
When is Sonepur Mela 2020 going to be held?
Sonepur Mela 2020 is going to be held from 20th November to 5th of December in Bihar.
What are the main attractions of Sonepur Mela?
If you are visiting the Sonepur Mela then you cannot miss the Hariharnath Temple, Maha Aarti in the evening, the cattle fair, and sports that are held every day.
Which is the best way to reach Sonepur Mela?
The best and cheapest way to reach Sonepur is by taking a train from your city. If not directly then you might find an indirect train to reach the destination.
Which deity is praised in Sonepur Mela?
Lord Hariharnath is praised during the Sonepur Mela as he was the one who settled the battle of a crocodile and an elephant.
Are there any accommodations for visitors in Sonepur Mela?
Yes, the Bihar Tourism Government offers a variety of accommodations like huts, non-AC rooms, and guesthouses (only for government officials).
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