The Sonepur Mela of Bihar is organized every year in the Hindu month of Kartik (November). The mela (fair) is held on the embankment of River Ganga at Sonepur, situated at a distance of approximately 25 km from the capital city of Patna. Celebrated on the day of Kartik Purnima, in the month of November, this fair commemorates Harihar Nath. Also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela, the Sonepur Cattle Fair once used to attract traders from places as distant as Central Asia. Till date, it is the biggest cattle fair of Asia and stretches on from fifteen days to one month.
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.
The most recent repairs on the temple were undertaken by the Birlas. Since Sonepur is situated at the convergence of the sacred rivers Ganga 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 mela, is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects at the Hariharnath Temple. 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 to toys, utensils and agricultural implements to jewelry and handicrafts.
Another major attraction is the sight of numerous elephants, beautifully decorated for the purpose of sale. However, these elephants are mostly purchased by people from forest departments and those involved with logging operations. Also, a large number of horses are also traded at the Sonepur Mela. Folk shows, games and jugglers further add to the attraction of the Sonepur Cattle Fair. Although the fair carries on for approximately fifteen days to one month, the maximum number of people can be seen here a few days before and after the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima.