The Sonepur Cattle Fair or Malegaon Mela () is held on Kartik Poornima (the full moon day) in the month of November in Sonepur, Bihar, on the confluence of river Ganges and Gandak. It is also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela and it attracts visitors from all over Asia. Till date, it is the biggest cattle fair of Asia and stretches on from fifteen days to one month. It has its origins during ancient times. This is when Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges. The Sonepur Cattle Fair once used to attract traders from places as distant as Central Asia.
Originally, the venue of the fair was Hajipur and only the performance of the puja used to take place at the Harihar Nath temple of Sonepur. However, under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the venue of the fair got shifted to Sonepur. The temple of Harihar Nath is believed to have been originally built by Lord Rama, on his way to the court of King Janak to win the hand of Mata Sita. It is further said that Raja Man Singh later got the temple repaired. The Harihar Nath temple, as it stands today, was built by Raja Ram Narain, an influential person during the late Mughal period.
Gajendhra Moksha legend is associated with the temple in Sonepur. It involves the story of king Indrayamuna and the Gandharva chief Huhu, who were turned into an elephant and a crocodile respectively by the curse of great sages Agasthya and Dewala muni. One day the elephant's leg was caught by the crocodile. It is said that both of them fought hard for many years with their herds. But ultimately the King Elephant weakened and prayed to the supreme god Vishnu (Hari) to save him. Vishnu heard his prayer and cut down the crocodile with his Chakra. But the touch of the chakra released Huhu from the curse. Vishnu also released Indrayamuna from his curse and took him to his abode Vaikuntha.
Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganges and Gandak, the Hindus regard it as a holy site. One of the purposes of the people visiting the Sonepur Cattle Fair, apart from the fair, is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects at the Hariharnath Temple.
The Fair Trade
Many farm animals can be bought at the Sonepur mela from all breeds of dogs, buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, rabbits, goats and even the occasional camel. Many varieties of birds and poultry are also available. The area that attracts all, however, is the Haathi Bazaar where elephants are lined up for sale. The Sonepur Fair is the only one where such a large number of elephants are traded - although they cannot legally be sold. Numerous stalls are also set up at the grounds of the Sonepur Cattle Fair. You will find a wide variety of goods in these stalls, ranging from garments, to weapons and furniture, toys, utensils and agricultural implements, jewelry and handicrafts. Major attraction is the sight of numerous elephants, beautifully decorated for the purpose of sale.
Getting There: Sonepur is well connected by road to the nearby towns and cities. Moreover, Sonepur is 25 kilometers from Patna, which is well connected by air, rail and road to the other parts of the country.
Time of the year: Kartik Purnima / November every year
Duration: Fifteen days (approximately)
Sonepur Cattle Fair Importance