The cattle fair is held on Kartheeka Purnima in the month of November in Sonepur, Bihar. River Ganges and Gandak merge into one another at a point and the festival is celebrated at that confluence point. It is well known as Harihar Kshetra mela and it attracts visitors from all over Asia. It is known to be the biggest cattle fair of Asia till date which stretches from 15 days to one month. It’s origin is rooted since ancient times. A time when Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges.
Originally the venue of the fair was Hajipur but later under the rule of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, the venue shifted to Sonepur. The temple of Harihar Nath is believed to have been originally built by Lord Rama on his way to the kingdom of Janaka. Later the temple got repaired by Raja Mansingh. The temple as seen today was built by Raja Ram Narain an influential person during the late Mughal period.
The legendary story of Gajendra Moksha is associated with the temple of Sonepur. It is said that great sages Agastya and Dewala Muni cursed the king Indrayamuna and Gandharva chief Huhu to turn into elephant and crocodile respectively. One day in Nepal, the elephant’s leg was caught by the crocodile. The story explains that they fought hard for many years along with their herds and while fighting came near the Sonepur temple.
Over time the king elephant weakened and it picked up a lotus flower with its trunk from the river and prayed to the supreme god Vishnu(Hari) to save him. Lord Vishnu heard his prayer and immediately cut down the crocodile with his chakra. As soon as the chakra touched the crocodile, Huhu got released from the curse andKingg Indrayamuna also got released from his curse and Lord Vishnu took him to his abode Vaikuntha. One of the prime purposes in visiting Sonepur fair is to take a holy dip at the convergence and pay respects to Hariharnath temple.
Many farm animals like dogs, buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, rabbits, goats, camels and much more can be bought at the fair. A variety of birds and poultry can also be seen. However, many people visit the fair to see the elephant trade. A large number of elephants are traded at one place but legally they cannot be sold. The elephants are very beautifully decorated and put up for sale. Also we can find a wide variety of goods being sold at stalls ranging from garments to furniture, weapons, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jewellery and handicrafts etc.
Sonepur is easily accessible through road and railways. It is located at a distance of 25 km from the capital city of Bihar i.e. Patna. Patna is well connected to Air, Rail, and Road. Also during this fair, BSTDC organizes ferries from Patna to Sonepur for the convenience of people. Several taxies and car rental services are also available from Patna to Sonepur.