Asia's largest cattle fair, the Sonepur Mela is a major event for the ancient town of Bihar, Vaishali. It is held on Kartik Poornima or the full moon day in the month of November. It is also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela and it attracts visitors from all over Asia. The cattle fair attracts traders not only from India but also from countries in Asia. The main reason for people coming here is to take a bath in the hot springs and offer flowers at the temple.
It is a vibrant rural fair that combines spirituality, sexuality, and animal trading. The venue of the fair is usually Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonpur. Traditionally known as a cattle fair, trading of animals and birds is no longer the main focus at the Sonepur Fair due to wildlife protection laws. For a tourist who desires to see all elements of Indian rural diversity and culture, this fair is a must visit.
Many farm animals can be bought at the Sonepur Mela from all breeds of dogs, buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, rabbits, goats, and even the occasional camel. Sonepur Mela has its origins traced back to the times of Chandragupta Maurya, the first ruler of India. For the best experience, you should be there on the first day to witness the sunrise bathing.
A stay of a day or two is sufficient to explore the festival.T he ‘Chiriya Bazaar’ or Bird Market is a space where birds and other small animals can be bought legally. Just like Rajasthan speaks about its camels in the Pushkar fair, Sonepur Mela has an extensive range of decorated elephants, all lined up for sale as its star attraction. At around 5 a.m., head down to the river bank and hire one of the many boats that are lined up there. Thus, in the present day, Sonepur Mela along with its cattle trading supremacy holds a religious angle as well.
A 'Railgram' stall is set up by Railways, where toy train is also erected for children. In my view, if you miss this riverside spectacle, you're missing out on the heart of the festival and may even find your festival experience to be unfulfilling. The festival is celebrated in all the corners of India generally as a harvest festival.
This time is considered very auspicious for starting any new venture. Swiss cottages are set up by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation at the Sonepur fair, with facilities of Internet facility, motor boat ride in river Gandak, food at the tourist village and pre-paid taxis from Patna Airport to Sonepur fair. Disneyland park is set up during the Sonepur Mela.
In stark contrast to these pious religious activities, "theater" performances are the highlight of nighttime entertainment at the Fair. Besides, this vibrant fair dominates with different variety of birds, poultries, cattle, the stalls of which all smeared up in the colorful attires of a fancy handicraft store. Sonpur is easily accessible by Roadways and Railways. Moreover, it is only 25 kilometers from Bihar's Capital Patna, which is well connected by Airways, Railways and Roadways to the other parts of the country.
Nowhere else will you see such a huge number of elephants at one place. The elephants are generally bought by forest department or traders into log business. There's a heavy police presence at the Fair, and security guards at Bihar Tourism Tourist Village. For a month, Sonpur transforms into a delightful congregation of fun and frolic.
The nearest bus stand is in Hajipur, 5 km away from Sonepur. Via road, Sonepur is 25 km away from Patna. Taxis, buses, three-wheelers and tongas are available. The festival is celebrated in all corners of India generally as a harvest festival. This time is considered very auspicious for starting any new venture.