Sonepur Mela is the one of largest cattle fairs of the world. It is a historical and ancient event celebrated every year on bank of pious confluence of Gandak and the Ganges river, on the back drop of Harihar Nath Temple. On Kartik Purnima lacs of Devotees flock to offer prayer at this temple after taking a holy dip in the river.
The mela has its origins during ancient times. This is when Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges. The Sonepur Cattle Fair once used to attract traders from places as distant as Central Asia.
Nearly all animals can be bought at the Sonepur mela from 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 area that attracts all, however, is the one where elephants are lined up for sale. The Sonepur Fair is the only one where such a large number of elephants are sold. Numerous stalls are also set up at the grounds of the Sonepur 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.
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.
Gajendhra Moksha legend is associated with the temple in Sonepur. It involves the story of king Indra Yamuna and the Gandharva chief Huhu, who were turned into an elephant and a crocodile respectively by the curse of great sages Agasthya and Dewala Muni. One day the elephant’s leg was bitten by the crocodile. It is said that both of them fought hard for many years with their herds. But ultimately the King Elephant lost his strength and prayed to the Supreme God Vishnu (Hari) to save him. Vishnu heard his prayer and cut down the crocodile with his Chakra. But the touch of the chakra released Huhu from the curse. Vishnu also released Indra Yamuna from his curse and took him to his aboard Vaikuntha.
Sonepur is well connected by road to the nearby City of Chapra, Hajipur, and cities. Sonepur is 25 kilometers from Patna, which is well connected by air, rail and road to the other parts of the country. Sonepur is well connected by Rail links and it is one of main Junction on north eastern railways connecting New Delhi to Guwahati.
The Mela is administered by Chapra District Administrator with due support from Bihar Govt. The promotion of Mela is done by the Tourism Ministry of Bihar. The administration arranges sanitation, drinking water facilities, health and welfare camps for the visitors.
Sonepur Mela gets very wide publicity in media world wide. Foreign news agencies provide good coverage of all the activities.