Bihar Explorer

Sonepur Mela 2023- Asia’s Grand Celebration of Tradition, Trade, and Spiritual Heritage

Sonepur Mela 2023: Asia's Grand Celebration of Tradition, Trade, and Spiritual Heritage

Sonepur, Bihar: The Hariharnath Kshetra Sonepur Mela, one of Asia’s largest and most renowned fairs, is set to captivate visitors from across the globe from November 20th to December 5th. Originating from the 4th century BC during the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, the fair has evolved into a celebration of cultural heritage, trade, and spirituality.

Historical Significance

The roots of Sonepur Mela trace back to the worship of Lord Hariharnath, combining elements of both Shiva and Vishnu. The fair began at Hajipur, with puja at the Harihar Nath Temple, believed to have been constructed by Lord Rama during his journey to King Janak’s court. The event commemorates Lord Vishnu’s intervention in the mythological battle between an elephant and a crocodile.

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During the Mughal era, under Aurangzeb’s rule, the fair expanded to include various performances and stalls, with a primary focus on animal trading. However, with the enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972, the trading of elephants was prohibited. Today, elephants are showcased as attractions, drawing visitors from around the world.

Hariharnath Temple

Hariharnath Temple is a famous temple in Sonpur, Bihar. It is located on the outskirts of Sonepur, on the banks of the Ganges and Gandak rivers. The temple is known for having idols of both Lord Vishnu (Hari) and Lord Shiva (Hara). 

According to history, Lord Ram built the temple while traveling to Sita’s swayamvar. The temple is also the site of the Battle of Ghaghra. 

The temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims. On Kartik Purnima, millions of devotees bathe in the Ganges at the confluence of the Ganges and Gandak.

Accommodations and Logistics: Accommodations are available through Bihar Tourism, offering woven straw huts and camps with attached western bathrooms. Additionally, BSTDC Tourist Bungalows and Government Guest Houses provide alternative options.

The Sonepur Cattle Fair


The Sonepur Cattle Fair, also known as the Harihar Kshetra Mela, is Asia’s largest cattle fair.
It’s held at the confluence of the Ganga and Gandak rivers in Sonepur, Bihar. The fair takes place on Kartik Purnima, the full moon day in November. It usually lasts from 15 days to one month. 

The fair was started during the Vedic period to worship Lord Hariharnath, the combination of Shiva and Vishnu. It was historically popular for trading livestock, especially elephants. The fair used to attract traders from places as far away as Central Asia. 

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The Sonepur Mela in Bihar has many outdoor sports, including

Horse race, Kabaddi, Kho-kho, Chess, Archery, Boating, Handball, Volleyball, Football, Wrestling, Cricket. 

Other sports that have been organized at the Sonepur Mela include: 
  • Tug of war
  • Rowing
  • Half marathon
The Sonepur Mela also has adventure and water sports, including
  • Hot air balloon rides
  • Parasailing

Ganga Aarti

The tale of fire and water – Ganga Aarti , Haridwar – East Indian Traveller

An Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. Ganga Aarti is usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that are floated down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the holiest river in India. The Ganga Aarti takes on special significance on the auspicious occasion of Ganga Dussehra (usually in May each year) when Maa Ganga is believed to have descended from heaven to earth.

In India, the Ganga (or Ganges) is considered not only a holy river but also a goddess in its own right. Worship of the Ganga River as a deity has its roots in Hindu tradition, which believes that washing oneself in its waters will cleanse the body and mind from sin.

Ganga Aarti is a spectacular ceremony that takes place every day in the 3 holy cities of Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Varanasi which are located on the banks of the river Ganga. The  Aarti is performed every day at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, and Hari-ki-Pauri Ghat in Haridwar at the bank of the holy river Ganga. It is a major highlight of the ghats, which attracts a large number of devotees and visitors.

Benefits of Ganga Aarti

  1. This Aarti purifies the souls of devotees.
  2. It Cures diseases and ailments.
  3. Ganga Aarti Washes away the sins of devotees and gives peace to the souls of their ancestors.
  4. Ganga Aarti helps one attain Moksha or liberation of the soul.

How to Reach Sonepur:

  • By Air: Patna’s Lok Nayak Jayaprakash International Airport, located 31 kilometers away, is the closest.
  • By Train: Sonepur Junction Railway Station is well-connected via the East Central Railway. Indirect trains are available from cities like Guwahati Junction and New Delhi.
  • By Road: Sonepur is accessible via NH 31, well-connected to nearby cities like Muzaffarpur, Chapra, Patna, and Hajipur.

Tips for Visitors

  • Avoid crowded areas on Kartik Poornima and travel in groups.
  • Wear comfortable footwear for extensive walking.
  • Avoid carrying valuables and book tickets in advance.
  • Check the schedule beforehand and plan your visit accordingly.

Sonepur Mela stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage and traditions of Bihar, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in a unique blend of spirituality, trade, and entertainment.

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