Situated on the confluence of the river Gandak and Ganges, Sonepur, shaped like three mighty rivers - the Ganga, Gandak, and Ghagra that demarcate this district, demarcate a triangle. Sonepur is located in the Saran district in the northern part of Bihar.
Set in panoramic surroundings, Sonepur is a small quiet town situated over Asia's longest bridge, the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, which is a short distance from Patna. It is famed for the unique 3 week long Sonepur fair, rightly called the 'king of fairs' that is only one of its kind in the whole of Asia, that it hosts in the period of October - November.
Sonpur Main Attraction: The Cattle Fair.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: FACTS & FIGURES
Location: Sonepur, Bihar
Time of the year: Kartik Purnima/November every year
Duration: Fifteen days (approximately)
Situated: On the Convergence of Rivers Ganges and Gandak.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: THE FAIR
A visual extravaganza awaits all at the Sonepur Fair, where multitudes congregate on Kartik Purnima to offer obeisance to Harihar Nath and participate inwhat is the biggest cattle fair in Asia. Festivities stretch over a fortnight, giving visitors a feel of the pulse of Bihar.
According to the Indian Almanacalmanac, the full moon day of Kartik Purnima,or Purnima of the month of Kartik, which usually falls in November, is one of the most auspiciousof days. A number of big fairs are held at important paces of pilgrimage. The Harihar Chhetra Mela near Sonepur is one of the biggest fairs held in India and is also the biggest cattle fair pilgrimage and the Harihar Kshetra Mela, as the Sonepur Fair is also known, is one of the biggest.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: HISTORY
Sonepur is located in the Saran district in the northern part of Bihar. This district shaped like a triangle is demarcated by three mighty rivers - the Ganga, Gandak, and Ghagra, demarcate this district, which is shaped like a triangle. Sonepur stands on the confluence of the Ganga and Gandak.
The Sonepur Fair is of great antiquity and in olden times would attract importance and in the olden times, it attracted traders from as far as Central Asia. Like the origin of the Harihar Nath Temple, the reason for the inception of the Sonepur Fair is lost in the labyrinth of time. The site of the present fair was originally at Hajipur whileHajipur, and only the pujas used to be offered atin the temple at Sonepur. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the fair was shifted to Sonepur. During the period of British rule,In the pre-independence era, the European indigo planters used it as an occasion for social and sports gathering. The fair continues for about fourteen days but the few days before, during and after the Kartik Purnima draws the maximum crowds. The sleepy mango grove of the fair ground turns into a wonderland, sure to overwhelm the sophisticated urban visitor as well as the simple rural folk.
The temple of Harihar Nath is naturally the main objective of the visitors to the fair after they have taken their ritual bath in the swirling waters of the Gandak. The original temple is believed to have been built by Lord Rama on his way to the court of King Janak to win Sita. The age and origin of the present temple has puzzled scholars but it is supposed to be believed that Raja Man Singh had it repaired. The builder of the present temple was Raja Ram Narain, a prominent figure during the late Mughal period. The Birlas recently conducted repairs and extension work in the temple.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: SPECIAL ATTRACTIONS
Visiting the temple of Harihar Nath is naturally the main objective of the visitors to the fair after they have taken their ritual bath in the swirling waters of the Gandak. As in many other famous places of worship, a number of smaller temples of other deities surround the temple of Harihar Nath Mahadeo.
Once the pujasand the ablutions are over, the visitors abandon themselves to the various attractions offered in and around the sprawling mela ground. The village folk, particularly the women,as well as the others, are attracted to the array of shops selling all sorts of garments, weapons and furniture, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jewelry and various handicrafts. The fair becomes merchandise virtual explosion of colors, music, dances, magic shows, cattle, merchants and handicrafts.
The area that attracts all, however, is the one wherethe elephants are lined up for sale. The Sonepur Fair is the only one where such a large number of elephants are sold. These are mainly purchased by different forest departments and people involved with logging operations. Apart from elephants, a large number of cattle, a wide variety of animals and horses are also brought to the fair for sale. Legends are also bought and sold in the fair.
The fair continues for about fourteen days but the few days before and after the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima draw the maximum crowds. The sleepy mango grove, where the fair is organized, turns into a wonderland, sure to overwhelm the sophisticated urban visitor as well as the simple rural folk.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: LEGENDS
Like so many places of pilgrimage in India, Sonepur also has its legend. It involves two kings both of who were turned into animals, a crocodile and an elephant, by the curse of sages who were offended by them. Those days, this area was supposed to have been girdled by hills with three towering peaks and a lake in the center.
Once, while bathing in the lake with a party of women, a Gandharva chief named Huhu made fun of Dewala Muni by playfully pulling his leg. The ire of the sage took the form of a curse that turned Huhu into a crocodile. The other accused person was Indradyumna, a king of the Pandyas, who was of a very pious nature but had offended the powerful sage, Agastya. The king had failed to notice the sage as he was in meditation when the sage visited him. The curse of the enraged Agastya turned Indradyumna into an elephant that took refuge in the woods surrounding the lake.
One day while the elephant came with a herd to the lake to bathe, the gandharva-turned-crocodile caught his leg in its powerful jaws. Not to be taken lightly, the king of elephants tried to pull the crocodile up on the bank in an effort to crush him under his feet. A mighty battle ensued, which was joined by other crocodiles and elephants. The contest went on for thousands of years without any one being able to overpower the other. But ultimately, the King Elephant weakened and prayed to the supreme god Vishnu (Hari) to save him. His prayer was answered and Vishnu cut down the crocodile with his chakra (disc). The touch of the chakra, however, released Huhu from the curse and he went to heaven. Vishnu also released Indradyumna from his curse by touching his forehead and took the king to His abode, Vaikuntha.
SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR: ASIA'S LARGEST CATTLE FAIR:
The Sonepur Fair is held on Karthik Purnima (the full moon day) in the month of November in Sonepur (Bihar), on the banks of river Ganga. It lasts for a fortnight and the cattle are decorated for the occasion.
In the months of November/December Sonepur in Bihar becomes the site of the Sonepur Livestock fair. It is Asia's largest cattle fair where anything can be bought right from elephants to camels, buffaloes, goats and all sorts of four-legged creatures.
The fair becomes a virtual explosion of colours, music, dances, magic shows, cattle, merchants and handicrafts as people from all over the world congregate to participate in this huge event. It has all the fun and hue of a popular fair, which has religious connotations as well and is enjoyed with a lot of jest and fanfare by all.
Apart from the elephants, camels and other livestock, visitors to this fair can also buy garments, weapons and furniture, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jeweler and various handicrafts.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air: Patna airport is 25 kms from Sonepur.
Rail: Sonepur is 25 kms from Patna airport.
Road: Buses to Sonepur are available from Patna.
Main languages: Bhojpuri, Maithili, Hindi and English
Clothing: summer: Cotton And Tropical. Winter: Woollen