According to the 1913 Bihar and Orissa Pilgrim Committee, a fair has been described as the following.
A “fair” is a place where pilgrims congregate in numbers on one or more occasions only during the year: frequently the attractions are secular as well as religious and only in rare instances do people come in numbers from long distances. Such places are, as a rule, but sparsely populated throughout the rest of the year, the only permanent residents being a few faqirs or the people of a small village.
Melas or fairs in Bihar are a common sight. The big fairs in Bihar include the melas of Rajgir near Patna, mela in Patna city, the melas in Jahanabad, in Gaya, Buxar and Sasaram in Shahabad, Revelganj in Saran, Bettiah in Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga and of course the Sonepur mela. The sonepur mela is the most famous and the oldest not only in Bihar but probably the whole of Asia.
It was here at Sonepur in 1888, the first meeting of the “Indian Association of Cow Protection” seminar took place. It was here at the Sonepur mela (mela in Hindi) that the freedom fighter Veer Kunwar Singh took the occasion of the assembly to actively recruit and inspire the people for fighting against the British imperialism both before and during the First Indian was of Independence in 1857. The cover of Sonepur mela led to the main launch of the struggle movement against the British in Bihar. The Provincial Congress Committee of Bihar and the Bihar Kisan Sabha (Farmers union) also used this mela and the gathering as a recruitment ground. That is why Sonepur mela was considered a political hotbed during the colonial rule by the British and kept a watchful eye.
Sonepur fair in Bihar, India has its origins during ancient times. This is where Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges from Patliputra (Patna of ancient times). Now Sonepur mela is one of the biggest and the world’s greatest fair. It takes place annually, 35 kilometres from Patna, the capital of Bihar. Sonepur mela is held for 21 days in the month of November (from around 5-6th) at the junction of the rivers, Ganga and Gandak. It even has a legendary tale attached to it. Many believe that a struggle took place at this spot in Sonepur between the ruler of Gandharva, Huhu and Indraya muni; ultimately Lord Vishnu helping the weaker latter. That is why there is a vast gathering of devotees gathered at the confluence for the two holy rivers for the blessed dip at the adjacent “Harihar Nath temple” on the full moon day (Kartik Purnima). Many believe that Lord Ram established the temple on his way to Lanka. The locals regard that a dip here at this confluence of the 2 rivers is equivalent to giving away of 100 cows. However, it now attracts people from all geographical and religious diversity from the Punjab and Kashmir to Bhutan and Kerala. During the British Raj, merchants from Afghanistan and Britain used to attend.
Sonepur mela is the Asia’s and probably one of the worlds largest cattle fair. No other mela in Bihar can boast about the crowds it attracts whether it’s Diwali, Chhath, Sivaratri, Ramnavami, Kartik Purnima, Janmashthami, Holi or Durga puja.
Nearly all animals brought here at the Sonepur mela for sale include all breeds of dogs to camels to buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, monkeys, chimps, Persian horses, sheep, rabbits, bears, cats, and guinea pigs. All varieties of birds, poultry and fishes are also available. The Sonepur mela specialises in the sale of every type of bird and animal, big or small.This is only place in the world that sells elephants in large numbers. Handicrafts, paintings and pottery not only from famous Madhubani but all over India can be seen here. All varieties of horticulture can be admired; this is a particular feast for the people of Bihar as it’s a major opportunity to enhance their gardens. Temporary shops selling household goods, local and branded clothing and commercial merchandise are also up for sale. At the Sonepure mela one can buy almost anything. Not to forget the food lovers, it’s absolutely divine. In recent years, government and several companies have started installing their shops to promote their products and services.
It even runs health camps for the wellbeing of animals specially elephants. Animal farmers, circus entertainers, traders and individuals come for a bargain. Some come for the sheer entertainment and a family day out that it provides.
Air: Take a flight to Patna airport and book in a hotel. Some good hotels include;
Rail: Alternatively get to Patna Station and stay at one of the below hotels.
Also could go to Hajipur that is the nearest railway station.
From Patna you could hire a taxi (autos, the famous 3 wheeler) from the railway station or anywhere that will take you across the Ganges to the Sonepur mela.
Hotel Maurya: South Gandhi, Maidan Patna, Patna, Bihar (5 star)
Samrat International: Fraser Road, Patna, Bihar (3 Star)
Patliputra Ashoka: Beer Chand Patel Path, Patna, Bihar (2 Star)
Chankya: Bir Chand Patel Path, Patna, Bihar (4 Star)
Kautilya Vihar: Beer Chand Patel Path, Patna (Govt. owned)
Hotel Republic: Exhibition Road, Patna, Bihar (2 Star)
Hotel President: Fraser Road, Patna, Bihar (2 Star)
Or if you prefer you could check in some smaller hotels in and around the Patna railway station such as the Marwari Awas Griha (Near the D-Lal retail shop near Dak Banglow).