Sonepur Mela, the famed cattle fair is held at Sonepur on Kartik Poornima (full moon day), in Northern Bihar, which is situated on the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Gandak. It is one of Asia’s largest cattle fairs.
There are many historical events associated with Sonepur Mela, In ancient times the Royal Rajahs and Nawabs used to camp here, also the first meeting of the “Indian Association of Cow Protection” held at this place in 1888. Different meetings during Sonepur Fair lead to the launch of the struggle movement against the British imperialism in Bihar.
The fair was also used as a recruitment ground by The Provincial Congress Committee of Bihar and the Bihar Kisan Sabha (Farmers union), these all events made this fair as the breeding ground of politics.
One of the interesting histories associated with the fair is that the original site for this popular fair was Hajipur instead of Sonepur. Previously only the ceremony of puja used to be held at Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur but later the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb decided to shift the site of the fair to Sonepur.
It is believed that the temple of Harihar Nath was built by Lord Rama on his way to court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita and later repaired by Raja Man Singh. Finally Raja Ram Narain further modified the temple during the late Mughal period.
A bath at the confluence and a visit to the Hariharnath temple here is the aim for thousands of devotees on the Kartika Purnima day.
The sprawling mela ground here with the pulsating market has the widest possible range of cattle and commodities. The array of shops sells all sorts of merchandise. Sonepur Fair is the only one of its kind where a large number of elephants are sold.
These are purchased mainly by forest departments and people involved with logging operations. Apart from elephants, a large number of cattle and horses are also brought to the fair for sale. Various folk shows, games and jugglers can be seen in the fair.
These days, Sonepur fair also called Harihar Kshetra Mela is administered by District of Chapra with support from Bihar Govt. and promoted by the Tourism Ministry of Bihar. The administration also arranges health and welfare camps, sanitation, drinking water facilities for the visitors.
Here are few of the pictures by Bashshar Habibullah to describe Sonepur Mela: