Location of Sonepur Cattle Fair
Sonepur Cattle Fair takes place on the confluence of Ganga River and Gandak River. It is also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela.
Mythological History of Sonepur Cattle Fair
Like so many places of pilgrimage in India, Sonepur also has its legend. It involves two kings both of who were turned into animals, a crocodile and an elephant, by the curse of sages who were offended by them. Those days, this area was supposed to have been girdled by hills with three towering peaks and a lake in the centre. 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 accused 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 Lord 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.
History of Sonepur Cattle Fair
Sonepur Cattle Fair is the biggest cattle fair of Asia and stretches on from fifteen days to one month. It has an ancient origin. Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganga.
Observation of Sonepur Cattle Fair
Initially the venue of Sonepur Cattle Fair was Hajipur and only the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However during Aurangzeb's rule the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. The temple of Harihar Nath is considered to have been built by Lord Rama, on his way to the court of King Janaka to win the hand of Sita. It is believed that it was later repaired by Raja Man Singh. The present Harihar Nath temple was built by Raja Ram Narain who was an influential personality during the late Mughal period.
Importance of Sonepur Cattle Fair
Many farm animals and birds are bought at the Sonepur mela that includes all breeds of dogs, buffaloes, cows, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, sheep, rabbits, goats, pig, camel, elephants. Haathi Bazaar is a centre of universal attraction as this is the place where elephants are lined. Sonepur Fair is the only fair where one can see several elephants. Numerous stalls are set up at the grounds of the Sonepur Cattle Fair.