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Know about the Sonpur Mela of Bihar, a vibrant rural carnival like no other

The Sonepur fair, held in the Saran District of Bihar at Sonpur area of ​​historical, religious and mythological significance at the confluence of the Mokshadayini Ganga and the Gandak River, starts from Kartik month and lasts for a month.

Even though the nature of this fair from ancient times has changed in Kalantar, its importance is still the same today. This is the reason that every year millions of domestic and foreign tourists reach here. Being a trade fair, animals of all varieties from elephants and camels to cats and guinea pigs can be bought here. It is unique fair in its kind and recognized as the biggest cattle fair in Asia.

Christophe Boisvieux/Getty Images

The annual Sonepur fair in Bihar is a vibrant rural fair that combines spirituality, animal trading, and amusement. Street magicians, religious gurus and tantriks, pilgrims, snack stalls, handicrafts, rides, circus performers, martial artists and dancing girls all create a carnival like no other.

Like other Indian festivals, this also has its roots in our ancient history. The buying and selling of cattle here has taken place for centuries, spread across an area of 500 acres. Local people says that the horses and elephants for great Mauryan emperor Chandragupta’s stables were bought here, after breeders travelled long distances to arrive at the site. It is a believed that historical figure like Emperor Akbar, Lord Clive of the East India Company and freedom fighter Baabu Kunwar Singh also visited here.

Traders from west and central Asia would bring horses to the fair; until the ‘90s, a brisk trade in elephants would be conducted by those who’d travelled up from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Elephants, horses, cows, asses, even monkeys — there were a wide variety of animals sold at the cattle fair.

The changing face of the Sonepur cattle fair. Photo courtesy MI Khan

Since elephant trading is becoming increasingly illegal, most traders get their elephants for pomp and prestige. Horses of fine quality also gallop around for the same reason. The ‘Chiriya Bazaar’ or Bird Market is a space where birds and other small animals can be bought legally. Cow being symbolic of various things in India are also sold as pedigree items as well as other cattle and milch animals.

the Sonepur fair now has a more commercial focus with the aim of attracting both domestic and international tourists.

In 2014, extra stalls were added selling clothing, agricultural equipment, automobiles, and fast-moving consumer goods. A food plaza was also set up with branded national chains. In addition, there were various adventure activities. Sporting competitions and cultural programs were introduced in 2018 to further draw the crowd.

How to reach

Sonepur is fully connected to Patna, the capital of Bihar. The distance between Patna to Sonpur is 56 kilometers. At the same time, the distance from other major cities Muzaffarpur to Sonpur is 36 kilometers and from Hajipur is just 5 kilometers. The nearest airport is Patna Airport and the nearest railway station is Patna Junction besides Hajipur. If you wish, you can also take a taxi directly from the airport or railway station to Sonpur.

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