The Sonepur Cattle Fair or Sonepur Mela (Hindi: सोनपुर मेला) is one of Asia’s largest cattle fairs and is held in the Indian state of Bihar, in a small village Sonepur (Sonpur) near Patna. The fair starts on Kartik Purnima (the full moon day) in November and lasts for around a month. It begins as a religious Hindu festival with thousands of pilgrims taking a ritual bath in Gandak river, near its confluence with the Ganges, on the full moon day. Spiritual activities are the main point of Sonepur Mela for a couple of days. When all pilgrims are gone back to their towns and villages the religious event transforms itself into a large trade fair and amusement park.
Nearly all domestic animals are traded there – all breeds of dogs, camels, buffaloes, horses, birds and poultry. However, the area that attracts the biggest crowd is the one where elephants are lined up for sale and the mela is the only one where such a large number of elephants is sold. Apart from the animals countless goods and services are offered and traded, such as clothing, beauty products, food, electronics and cars.
Together with commercial activities there are many entertainment options available. A festive, carnival atmosphere prevails – giant ferries wheels, numerous rides, wells of deaths, circuses and various performance shows offer amusement for families, children, women and men.
The whole event continues for about a month and attracts thousands visitors daily.
Maciej has visited the mela six times between 2010 and 2017 and has an extensive collection of images from this event. He is planning to publish a Sonepur Mela book in the future.