Hajipur (Bihar): The month-long Sonepur mela, Asia's largest cattle fair which has attracted international attention, got off to a colourful start on Tuesday at Sonepur in Saran district amidst tight security. Elephants, horses, dogs, donkeys, ponies, rabbits and goats are sold from the mela, which is also known as the Harihar Kshetra Mela.
The mela has its origins in ancient times when Emperor Chandragupta Maurya used to buy elephants and horses from across Ganga. Bihar Tourism minister Sunil Kumar Pintoo inaugurated the fair which begins during the full moon of the Hindu month of Kartik at the confluence of rivers Ganga and Gandak. It will end on December 26.
The tourism department has been assigned the job of reviving the charisma of the Sonepur mela, which is also famous for its theatre and folk dances. The organisers have this year broadened the concept of the fair creating dedicated zones for different segments like automobiles, FMCG, electronics, entertainment and kids zone.
Swiss cottages blending rural ambiance with modern amenities have been arranged for foreign tourists, organisers said, adding, most of them having a tariff of Rs 4000 per day have already been booked. News Asia, the most popular news channel of Singapore, has come to the mela to make an exclusive documentary on it. Famous travel writer Sharell Cook of New York has also arrived to write exclusively on the mela, the organisers said.