Sonepur Mela

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Timings : November 20 to December 5, 2020

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Also Refered As:

Harihar Kshetra Mela

Sonepur Mela, Patna Overview

The Sonepur Cattle Fair is one of the largest fairs of animals in Asia that takes place annually in the Vaishali district of Bihar. Situated on the bank of the river Gandak, the city of Sonepur holds the annual livestock fair, commonly known as 'Sonepur Mela'. This year it is going to be held on 20th November 2020.

Though famous as a cattle fair, Sonepur Mela has a common proverb to its name which goes as: One can buy everything in Sonepur Mela, from a needle to an elephant. The saying, however, does not hold any longer, for the sale and purchase of elephants has been declared illegal since 2004, after the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. However, the Sonepur Mela still has much to offer to its visitors, who come from all across the country as well as abroad from handicraft stores to trade of Dogs, Buffaloes and Donkies. The Mela stretches from 15 days to a month.

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Sonepur Mela 2020 Dates

November 20 to December 5, 2020

The date for commencement of Sonepur Mela is decided according to Hindu calendar. The Mela begins at Kartik Poornima, which is the full moon day or the fifth moon day in the month of Kartik, which usually falls in November/ December in the Gregorian calendar.

How is Sonepur Mela Celebrated?

Together with buying and selling of animals like cattle, dogs, cats, birds, camels and whatnot, other items such as edibles, clothes, agricultural tools, handicrafts, and furniture are also found in the stalls. Though sale and purchase of elephants have been banned, yet some of the owners bring them to the fair to flaunt them. Elephants are an essential part of the Sonepur Mela, as the belief goes behind bringing them for the show. Apart from buying and selling of the animals, many events such as Magic shows, Merry-go-rounds, and Tantric practices can also be found in action.


The holy Gandak River
The holy Gandak River

Puja is offered at the Harihar Nath temple, since it is the guardian shrine of the place, and the mythology of the fair is linked to it. Devotees take a dip in the waters where Gandak River and the Ganges meet, to seek blessings and purify themselves. Several competitions, such as animal race, are also organised.

'Sonepur Mela Theatre'

As the sun sets over Sonepur, a fresh enthusiasm sparks up Mela's charm. Adults, as well as youngsters, gather to see what is termed as 'Theatre'. Many girls, clad with the purpose of alluring the audience, are put up on a stage. The girls dance on the raised platform with the enthusiasm of being in an item number, strip-teasing at the same time, while Bhojpuri music plays through the loudspeakers. Large numbers of people gather for these shows, and the collection is vast. The number of these 'theatres' is more than one in the fair at night. Beginning at sundown, the shows are at their peak after midnight.

Animals at the Sonepur Mela

What started off as a large fair for the trading of cattle has blossomed into a large marketplace of various animals such as dogs, cats, elephants, goats, cows, horses, rabbits, birds, buffaloes, camels, hens, pigs, and an assortment of bird species.

Legend of Sonepur

Legend has it that Sonepur was the place of settlement of the never-ending fight between Gaj and Grah - the elephant and the crocodile or the forest and the water. It is believed that an elephant, along with his herd, came to this lake for a bath. A crocodile captured one of its legs within its powerful jaw, and the elephant was stuck.

The struggle to break free from the crocodile lasted for years and even with help from its herd, the elephant's strength declined, and he prayed to Lord Vishnu or Sri Hari for help. His prayer was heard, and he was finally saved by Lord Vishnu. The shouting out of the phrase "Kaun Haara, Kaun Haara" (Who got defeated?), is how the riverbank "Konhara" got its name.

Stay Near Sonepur Mela

Staying at the mela can be done at the camps set up for the pilgrims but you will have to be prepared to rough it out in them as they are set up right in the mela grounds. There is also the Bihar Tourism resort which is a viable option. Tourist lodges are set up during the festival with western style washrooms to accommodate the people coming. Small hotels and guest houses are also there. You can also go a short distance to places like Hajipur for staying during this time.

Tips For Visiting Sonepur Mela

1. Beware of huge crowds especially on Kartik Poornima. Try to stay in groups. Enjoy the festivities but stay alert in the dark.

2. Avoid carrying big loads, cameras, mobile phones or other valuables.

3. Given how crowded it can get, walking around is your best bet at seeing the entirety of the festival. So keep your running shoes packed and get ready to give your legs an insane workout!

History of Sonepur Mela

The origins of the fair can be traced back to the reign of Indian king Chandragupta Maurya who used to buy elephants and horses across the Ganges. Many traders from Central Asia would gather to take part as per historical records. Back then, Sonepur was merely a religious site and the fair used to be held at Hajipur. Only the puja was performed in the Hariharnath Temple in Sonepur.

However, this changed under the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and Sonepur has been the venue of the fair ever since. The temple of Hariharnath is believed to have been built by Lord Rama himself while he was en route King Janak's court to ask for his daughter Sita's hand in marriage.

How To Reach Sonepur Mela

Sonepur is well connected by road to Patna (56 km), Muzaffarpur (36 km) and Hajipur (5 km). Patna Airport is also at a distance of 30 km, and the Sonepur Junction is the nearest railway station. One can hire a taxi from any of these cities to travel to Sonepur.

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