<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Once famous as Asia’s largest cattle fair, Bihar’s “Sonepur Mela” is losing its sheen with colourful events turning it into a cultural carnival.The fair, which was inaugurated by deputy CM of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi on November 2, is put up at the confluence of River Ganga and River Gandak in Saran district, around 40 kilometres from the state capital.The various folklore associated with the fair claim that animals were traded here from the times of Chandragupt Maurya and through the Mughal era. It is believed that Veer Kunwar Singh also visited the centuries old fair to strengthen his cavalry and infantry to fight against the British.Elephants, horses, cows, buffaloes, goats and birds were once a major attraction at the fair, but the scenes have changed now. The regular visitors to the fair claim the number of cattle traders has reduced considerably, and handloom and handicraft stalls along with government kiosks now dominate the fairground.The reason for almost emply “Gai Bazaar”, many believe, is the increased fear of cow vigilantes across the nation. Similar views were echoed by RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav, who said, “Fewer animals have been brought to the fair as cattle traders are hesitant of attack by Gau Rakshaks en route. Earlier people were afraid of lions, now they are afraid of cows.”The ban on trading of elephants and birds has added to the lacklustre. “Till the turn of the century, elephants from across the country were traded at the fair. However, for the last few years, they were only put on exhibition and now even that is on verge of extinction,” says Harkhu Rai, who visited the fair to buy milch animals.The focus of the fair has now shifted on entertainment events such as theatre and cultural evenings along with spreading awareness and promotion of government’s policies and products. The Government of Bihar too is aware of the changes and a senior official of the state tourism department said, “With so many legislation related to animal trade coming up in the country, it is difficult to preserve its essence of being Asia’s largest cattle fair. Perhaps, renovating it as a cultural centre in the coming years will be more practical.”The fair, which is visited by many foreign tourists, will conclude on December 2.
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