Information about Sonepur Mela

Sonepur Mela is a once-in-a-year quintessentially Indian 'gathering of people'(mela) in the village of Sonepur at the confluence of 4 major rivers of North India - Ganga, Ghaghra, Son and Gandak. It is held on the auspicious Karthik Purnima(full moon night) in the month of November. It is also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela.

Sonepur Mela is famous for its large gathering of pilgrims, elephants, horses races, chiriya bazaar(bird market), and one of the largest cattle and livestock market in India. It remains relatively untouched by the commercial tourism.

This is the true heart of India and is representative of the daily life, culture and beliefs of vast majority of Indians.

Sonepur Mela is India, just being India.

Sonepur mela is held on Karthik Purnima - the night of the full moon - in the month of November.

The Sonepur Mela lasts one month but the best time to go is the second to fourth day of the mela. The first day of the mela is very crowded. The second to fourth day are relatively less crowded. The crowds starts dispersing after the fifth day and the elephants and the other animals start leaving as well.

3 days/2 nights is more than enough to see the mela.

Karthik Purnima in 2014 is on Thu 6-Nov. So the mela begins on that date in 2014. For 2015, it is Wed 25-Nov. For 2016, it is Monday 14-Nov.

Sonepur mela is held in the village of Sonepur 30km from Patna, Bihar. Patna is very well connected to the rest of the country by fast trains and regular flights.

From Patna, hire an auto-rickshaw to Sonepur. It will take about 2 hours to cover the 35km to Sonepur. The road from Patna to Sonepur is very busy with a lot of traffic. Expect traffic jams 24 hours a day. Auto-rickshaws will drop you just before the narrow pedestrian bridge over River Gandak. From there, you have to walk 1km to reach the fair grounds. There is an alternate route over another bridge to the north but it takes a little longer but one doesnt have to walk. The short walk over the bridge is recommended.

The mela is too crowded and walking around is the only practical option in the mela.

The elephants are the highlight of the mela. There were more than 40 elephants in 2013. The number of elephants is steadily decreasing as there is a ban on the sale of elephants. Most people who bring elephants simply keep elephants for prestige. Elephants are taken for their daily bath to the Gandak river all afternoon.

The horses 'races' are also very popular. It is not really a race but horses gallop to-and-fro along a set path. Riders show off their horses to potential buyers.

The 'Chiriya Bazaar'(bird market) is a small bazaar where birds(and other animals) can be legally bought. A parrot can be bought for Rs 350(2013 prices). A cage for the parrot costs about the same amount as well. Parrots, guinea pigs, dogs, pheasants, and a wide variety of small birds are sold here.

Livestock such as cattle, goats, buffalo are also for sale. Prized cows can fetch Rs 10 lakh($15,000) or more.

Enjoy the local culture in the heart of India.

Sonepur mela is held in the Sonepur village; 30km north of Patna, Bihar, along the single lane un-maintained chronically crowded Mahatma Gandhi bridge over the Ganga river. Due to the narrow road and heavy traffic, even at 4am in the morning, it takes more than 3-4 hours to cover the 30km from Patna to Sonepur. It is safe to travel any time of the day or night. The traffic and crowds will keep you safe. Take usual precautions.

There is no good accommodation around Sonepur and it is not practical to travel to/from Patna as the round trip can take 6-8 hours during the mela. Hotel Anamika in the nearby town of Hajipur is highly recommended by many but is noisy as it is on the main road and unhygienic. It takes about 1 hour to get from Hotel Anamika in Hajipur to the mela in Sonepur. Hotel Anamika is probably still the best place to stay - although that is not saying much. If you can 'rough it out', sleep in the various camps for pilgrims at the mela. Expect to pay around Rs 500(2013 prices) for a simple mattress on the floor and a blanket under a canvas tent. Take your own bed sheet and blanket and inflatable pillow and you will be ok. Wash at various handpumps in the camp ground. There are places to eat serving simple but very spicy food. Bottled water is easily available. The Bihar Tourism resort at the western end of the mela ground serves good simple food but is over-priced for night stay. It is good place to relax during the hot afternoon.

Be careful of hygiene. Be careful of the smoke from various fires. Be careful of the extremes of weather - cold at night and hot during the day.