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Archiver > INDIA > 2001-08 > 0998878350


From: "Nicholas Forrest" <>
Subject: [India-L] HARIHAR CHHETRA MELA OR HARIHAR KSHETRA MELA AT SONEPUR,BIHAR
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2001 12:12:30 +1000


Forward from Mani Francis

SONEPUR CATTLE FAIR AT HARIHAR CHHETRA (NEAR PATNA IN NORTH BIHAR)

Please refer to the Internet Site:
http://www.indianvisit.com/ivnew/fairsandfestivals/fairsofindia/sonepu
rfair.htm
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FACTS & FIGURES
Location :Sonepur, Bihar
Time of the Kartik Purnima/November every
year :year
Duration :Fifteen days (approximately)
Cycle :Yearly
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THE FAIR
A visual extravaganza awaits all at the Sonepur Fair, where
multitudes congregate on Kartik Purnima to offer obeisance to Harihar
Nath and participate in what is the biggest cattle fair in
Asia.Festivities stretch over a fortnight, giving visitors a feel of
the pulse of Bihar.

According to the Indian Almanac, the full moon day of Kartik
Purnima,or Purnima of the month of Kartik, which usually falls in
November, is one of the most auspicious of days. A number of big
fairs
are held at important places of pilgrimage. The HARIHA CHHETRA MELA
near Sonepur is one of the biggest fairs held in India and is also
the
biggest cattle fair pilgrimage and the Harihar Kshetra Mela, as the
Sonepur Fair is also known,is one of the biggest.

HISTORY

Sonepur is located in the Saran district in the northern part of
Bihar. This district shaped like a triangle is demarcated by three
mighty rivers - the Ganga, Gandak, and Ghagra. Sonepur stands on the
confluence of the Ganga and Gandak.

The Sonepur Fair is of great antiquity and in olden times would
attract
importance and in the olden times,
it attracted traders from as far as Central Asia. Like the origin of
the HARIHAR NATH Temple, the reason for the inception of the SONEPUR
FAIR is lost in the labyrinth of time. The site of the present fair
was
originally at Hajipur while only the pujas used to be offered in the
temple at Sonepur. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb,
the
fair was shifted to Sonepur. During the period of British rule,in the
pre-independence era, the European indigo planters used it as an
occasion for social and sports gathering.

The temple of Harihar Nath is naturally the main objective of the
visitors to the fair after they have
taken their ritual bath in the swirling waters of the Gandak. The
original temple is believed to have been
built by Lord Rama on his way to the court of King Janak to win
Sita.
The age and origin of the present
temple has puzzled scholars but it is supposedly said that Raja Man
Singh had it repaired. The builder of the present temple was Raja Ram
Narain, a prominent figure during the late Mughal period. The Birlas
recently conducted repairs and extension work in the temple. As in
many
other famous places of worship, a number of smaller temples of other
deities surround the temple of Harihar Nath Mahadeo. When Once the
pujasand the ablutions are over, the visitors abandon themselves to
the
various attractions offered in and around the sprawling mela ground.
The village folk, particularly the women,as well as the others, are
attracted to the array of shops selling all sorts of garments,
weapons
and furniture, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jewelry and
various handicrafts. The fair becomes a merchandise. virtual
explosion
of colors, music, dances, magic shows, cattle, merchants and
handicrafts.

The area that attracts all, however, is the one where the elephants
are lined up for sale. The Sonepur
Fair is the only one where such a large number of elephants are
sold.
These are mainly purchased by
different forest departments and people involved with logging
operations. Apart from elephants, a large
number of cattle , a wide variety of animals and horses are also
brought to the fair for sale.

The fair continues for about fourteen days but the few days before
and
after the auspicious day of Kartik
Purnima draw the maximum crowds. The sleepy mango grove, where the
fair is organized, turns into a
wonderland, sure to overwhelm the sophisticated urban visitor as
well
as the simple rural folk.

LEGENDS

Like so many places of pilgrimage in India, Sonepur also has its
legend. It involves two kings both of who
were turned into animals - akings, who were both turned into
animals-a
crocodile and an elephant by the curse of sages who were offended by
them. Those daysIn those days, this area was supposed to have been
girdled by hills with three towering peaks and a lake in the center.

Once, while bathing in the lake with a party of women, a Gandharva
chief named Huhu made fun of Dewala Muni by playfully pulling his
leg. The ire of the sage took the form of a curse that turned Huhu
into
a crocodile. The other accursed person was Indradyumna, a king of the
Pandyas, who was of a very pious nature but had offended the powerful
sage, Agastya. The king had failed to notice the sage as he was in
meditation when the sage visited him. The curse of the enraged
Agastya
turned Indradyumna into an elephant that took refuge in the woods
surrounding the lake.

One day while the elephant came with a herd to the lake to bathe, the
gandharva-turned-crocodile caught his leg in its powerful jaws. Not
to
be taken lightly, the king of elephants tried to pull the crocodile
up
on the bank in an effort to crush him under his feet. A mighty
battle
ensued, which was joined by other crocodiles and elephants. The
contest
went on for thousands of years without any one being able to
overpower
the other. But ultimately, the King Elephant weakened and prayed to
the
supreme god Vishnu (Hari) to save him. His prayer was answered and
Vishnu cut down the crocodile with his chakra (disc). The touch of
the
chakra, however, released Huhu from the curse and he went to heaven.
Vishnu also released Indradyumna from his curse by touching his
forehead and took the king to His abode, Vaikuntha.

GETTING THERE

Sonepur is 25 kilometres from Patna, which is well connected by air,
rail and road to the other parts of the country.

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