On our journey to explore ‘Fairs of Bihar’, we pause this series with that one fair that goes beyond boundaries, ‘Shravani Mela’. As the name suggests, Shravani Mela is celebrated in the month of Shravan and is a month-long ritual. This ritual links the towns of Sultanganj (Bhagalpur, Bihar) and Deoghar (Jharkhand) along a 108 km long route. Over the years, such a massive influx has seen an infrastructure develop around it, running into several crores.
Bhagalpur town is one of Bihar’s ostensible smart cities. The district has more than 1,500 villages, two large rivers, and well-known but decrepit silk industry. Yet, it is most known for the pilgrimage town of Sultanganj, which has the Baba Ajgaivinath Shiv Temple on the banks of the Ganga. This one of the country’s largest pilgrimages festivals starts in the first week of July each year from this town, bringing over a lakh devotees to Sultanganj. Devotees named Kanwarias, wearing saffron-colored clothes, chanting “Bam Bam Mahadev” collect holy water of the Ganga, and walk or travel 108 km to Deogarh in Jharkhand. Then, the devotees bathe the sacred Shiva linga with the Gangajal in Deoghar’s Baba Baidyanath temple. Even in Bhagalpur city, 30 km from Sultanganj, there are posters of the kanwariya route that are never taken off.
According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that once Ravana prayed relentlessly to Shiva asking for his blessings, even resorting to decapitating his many heads. When Ravana was reduced to just one head, Shiva asked him what he wanted. Ravana asked for a shivling which he could take back to Lanka. The gods were angry at this proposal, asking Shiva not to grant that wish as it would empower Ravana. Shiva gave Ravana the shivling but added a caveat — the shivling must be carried all the way from Mount Kailash to Lanka without being set down, for if it were to be set down, it would never move. Cautioned by this, Ravana took the shivling but stopped at Deoghar. Here he was met by one of the gods in the guise of a shepherd, offering to hold the shivling. Ravana handed it over, only for the shepherd to set it down immediately, making this place pious.
Other than Shravani Mela, there are multiple other local fairs from Bihar that have grown over the years and will surely make up the headline in the future. This list includes the fairs of Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Saurath, Bounsi, Buxar, Simariya, Sahodhara, Pawapuri Diwali fair, Patna Sahib Gurudwara Fair, Patna Book Fair, Singheshwar Sthan Fair, Aries Equinox Fair, and Baba Brahmeshwarnath Fair.