One of the most stereotyped images of India is elephants and cows idling around on streets. This imagery even though true in some cases has been overused in television and films. Even today, one comes across Indians traveling abroad being asked if they really do travel on elephants!
While modern India is a far cry from this stereotype, its romance with animals continues. This is evident through the various festivals that celebrate animals – Nagpanchami: the day snakes are worshipped; Bailpola: the day cows and cattle are worshipped and given the day off – to name a few. But perhaps the biggest exhibitions of this love are the Pushkar Mela and the Sonepur Mela, both celebrated in the month of November.
The Pushkar Mela (fair), a favorite among tourists to India, is one of the largest cattle fairs where over 50,000 camels assemble and are traded every year. There are camel fashion shows, camel races and other events as well. The Pushkar Mela also presents a unique opportunity to experience Rajasthan in its traditional grandeur – from its delicious foods to breathtaking handicrafts and vibrantly colored clothes.
The Sonepur Mela assembles in Sonepur in Northern Bihar, on the banks of the river Ganga. If Pushkar Mela has its camels, the Sonepur Mela has its elephants. A record number of them are traded at this fair every year. The fair traces back its history to the times of Chandragupta Maurya who is said to have bought his elephants and horses on the banks of the river Ganga. This fair is relatively lesser known to foreign tourists, but is a spectacle not to be missed.
Have you visited the Pushkar Mela? Do you have pictures and stories of the Pushkar or Sonepur to share? I would love to hear them.
— Sanjay Puri