27 September 2007

Sonepur Mela

Sonepur Mela is celebrated at SONEPUR in BIHAR,INDIA. In the indian map BIHAR IS highlighted, and in BIHAR map, sonepur is being shown.

NOW lets see some interesting facts about this biggest animal fair.

Elephant mart

Asia's largest animal fair takes place in Sonepur, in the northern Indian state of Bihar.

Locals say more than 700,000 people visit each year. They boast that at the fair, shoppers can buy "everything from a needle to a sword, a dog to an elephant".

Elephant vs crocodile

The opening of the fair coincides with the Hindu religious festival of Kartik Purnima, which occurs in October or November. Devotees bathe at the point where two holy rivers, the Ganges and the Gandak, meet.

Legend has it that here two brothers cast a spell on each other, turning one into an elephant and the other into a crocodile. When the elephant went to bathe in the river, the wily crocodile attacked. Their fight lasted until Lord Vishnu intervened and saved the elephant.

Journey of faith

"This is a very religious place for us, and we have come here to show our faith in God," says Sonelal Sahni, who has brought his grandsons to bathe in the river and have their heads shaved in a ritual by priests.

They have travelled from their village 100km (62 miles) away, but other worshippers come from much further away.

Status symbol

It is illegal to buy and sell elephants in India. But at the Sonepur Mela the trade is only thinly disguised as an exchange of gifts, and there have been about 60 at the market this year.

Most owners and buyers are rich and powerful landowners. They keep the animals as a status symbol, or hire them out at religious festivals or family celebrations. "We treat the elephants like our own children," one man who refused to be named said.

Horse rider

Horses are ridden through the crowds to demonstrate how fast they can run. Every conceivable type is for sale - from tired-looking pack animals to powerfully built stallions. Some of these are so valuable they have their own tents and armed guards.

Also on sale are buffaloes, oxen, goats, cows and camels, and dealers run a separate enclosure for dogs, parrots and other pets.

Few visitors

Restaurants and stalls serve the thousands of farmers, traders, worshippers and holy men who visit Sonepur. There are very few foreigners among the crowds, partly because of Bihar's reputation as India's poorest and most lawless state.

Officials reckon that fewer than 50 tourists attended the fair last year, compared to the 14,000 said to have visited the Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan, which runs during the same period.

Flute salesman

Everyone wants to buy a souvenir before returning to their villages. Megaphones blast out advertisements for hair oil, plastic cricket bats, swords and saddles.

It is only the second day of the fair and Raman has already sold 200 flutes. But he's not happy. "Business is not going at all well this year," he says. There is too much competition now, and he says he needs to sell many more to break even.

Magician's tricks

Kumar the Magician's favourite tricks include "elephant vanishing, ground vanishing, building vanishing, self-cutting, cutting in half". It is the first time the Punjabi showman is performing at Sonepur and he is playing to packed audiences three times a day.

Other popular acts that run late into the night include a man who eats animal fodder, a wall-of-death motorcycle show , and a risque song and dance routine

Time for a bath

At dawn, the elephants put on the most popular show at the Sonepur Mela. Their handlers, or mahouts, take them to bathe in the Ganges.

It's quite a common sight here to see devotees bathing close to elephants in the holy river.

Painful parting

At bath time, the handlers rub and clean the elephants. Sometimes, the elephants spray the handler with water from their trunk.

The elephants and the mahouts share a close relationship, and it can be a stressful experience for both of them when they are sold.
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1 comment:

B. said...

Dear Sushant,
I am a retd person from TATA STEEL,
Jamshedpur,settled in Chennai.
Liked ur write-up on Sonepur Mela,interesting.I need pic of HARIHAR MANDIR, SONEPUR & its Deity.
Will u provide me? Thanks.

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