India is a land of fairs and colorful gatherings. When it comes to fairs then nothing can beat the largest cattle fair that is held every year.
Situated in Northern Bihar, Sonepur is known for organizing grand cattle fair every year on Kartik Poornima (the full moon day) in the month of November. This fair is also known by the name "Harihar Kshetra Mela." It is undoubtedly one of the biggest fairs of Asia that runs for one month. It is extremely popular among people in all over the Asia. Every year, visitors from all parts of Asia travel to Sonepur to see the beauty, enthusiasm of this fair. People from varied places visit Sonepur to buy/sell their animals in this fair.
This actual concept of this fair originated from the reign of Chandragupta Maurya which is during 340 - 297 BCE when Chandragupta Maurya used to trade Elephants and horses across or on the banks of Ganges. In 2013, Sonepur Cattle Fair marked its name for the longest and biggest running cattle fair, starting from November 16 and till December 15.
It is not just a cattle trading fair but all sorts of animals are traded in the Sonepur Cattle Fair. This has become one of the best platforms to trade animals with such tremendous buyer and sellers.
This yearly fair gives an amazing opportunity to all the forest departments to buy animals on affordable prices.History
There are interesting historical facts behind the Sonepur Cattle Fair. During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, the original place where this fair used to take place was Hajipur which is just 10kms away from Patna.
Later, when Mughal Aurangzeb came as a ruler, the fair was shifted to Sonepur. It is also believed that a puja was performed before the fair that used to take place only at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. It is also believed that the Harihar Nath temple was originally built by Lord Rama when he was on his way to the court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita. Later, this temple was maintained and repaired by the Raja Man Singh.
The temple which stands today was built by the late Mughal Emperor, Raja Ram Narain. An interesting ancient story that expresses the history of Sonepur Cattle Fair is about two brothers, Indrayamuna and the Gandharva chief Huhu. Both the brothers were religious followers of Lord Vishnu. Due to curse given by the saints Agasthya and Dewala muni, Indrayamuna was converted to an honest Elephant and Gandharva chief Huhu was converted into a cruel crocodile. One day, elephant was having his bath in the holy river of Ganges and suddenly cruel crocodile attached him. The elephant took the lotus and started praying to the Lord Vishnu. To answer his prayer, Lord Vishnu came himself and killed the crocodile with his chakra proving the victory of good over the evil. Lord Vishnu released both the brothers from their curses as well. That is why; Sonepur Cattle Fair also holds significant religious beliefs among the devotees.
Sonepur is also considered as one of the sacred places in India as it is situated at the convergence of two sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak. During this cattles Fair, people and visitors take holy dip at the convergence of these two scared rivers to pay tribute to the Harihar Nath temple.Trade Fair
One can find all sorts of animals in the Sonepur Cattle Fair. All breeds of dogs, cats, elephants, sheeps, goats, cows, horses, ponies, rabbits, birds, buffaloes, camels etc. The other poultry animals such as hens, chickens, pigs, pigeons, ducks etc are also put on sale in this fair. The main attraction for people in the Sonepur Cattle Fair is the 'Hathi Bazaar' where all sorts of elephants in large numbers are sold legally. These elephants are decorated beautifully for the fair before putting them on the sale.The other attractions for the visitors include various things such as: