Life at Sonepur Mela, Bihar – A Photo Story

The content for this blog was shot last year during the annual Sonepur Mela in Bihar. It took me a year and a lot of patience to edit and upload these photos because I couldn’t decide which one to go ahead with.


Sonepur Mela is one of the most popular fairs in India. Apart from being the biggest Cattle fair in Asia, its sheer grandness surpasses famous festivals like Pushkar fair. Sonepur Mela brings the rural rustic life and presents in a very beautiful way.

Sonepur mela cattle

I have a very special connection with this fair. Every new year, my family including the cousins living in Hajipur used to visit this fair and we used to have a lot of fun. Time went by, Sonepur Mela became a thing of the past. But it was only last year when I decided to explore this festival and I did it not just once but thrice during the entire time the festival was here. This destination is one of the lesser known places to visit in Bihar which comes alive only between November and January.



Here is my attempt to describe Sonepur Mela’s swagger in photos.


The concept of Mela in Indian rural scene is very old. Whenever there is a special occasion in a village, these melas are organized. Mela or fairs are a unique part of Indian culture. Every fair has its own significance. Pushkar Fair starts on the occasion of Karthik Purnima when taking a dip in Pushkar Lake is considered holy. Sonepur Mela starts on the same date and goes on for two months.


Sonepur is located 40 km away from Patna. Every year during Karthik Purnima lakhs of pilgrims visit this place to take a holy dip in the River Gandak.

Ghewar – Connecting dot between Pushkar Fair and Sonepur Mela
Jalebi – Made in Middle East, perfected by Biharis
Bihari fairs are incomplete without plates and plates of Gulabjamuns
Halwa Puri – An innovation from the Muslim households of UP and Bihar

Not everyone coming to Sonepur mela plans to buy cattle. Some come here to find a break from their farms and shops, some come here to enjoy the yummy food that adds to the charm of this fair.


Mela’s delights and lightings also gave me ample space to experiment with my camera.


Visitors from Sonepur Mela transcend all ages, genders and even nationalities. You’ll find people from Nepal who come here to take a bath in the confluence of the Ganges and Gandak.


Sonepur Mela stalls give you a chance to buy everything in a very literal sense. You can buy woolen clothes, toys and even swords like this dude above.

Where to stay in Sonepur Mela

Sonepur Mela is located 40 km from Patna. If you are traveling especially for this fair then I’ll suggest you to stay in Patna and travel to Sonepur on a daily basis. It is tiring but assures that you’ll have a roof above your head.

How to reach Sonepur Mela

There are two ways to reach Sonepur. Either you can take an auto from Kurji Mod to Digha Pul and then take another auto for Sonepur. This auto rikshaw will drop you at Sonepur station from where you can walk to the venue of Sonepur Mela.

Another route is from Gandhi Setu bridge. Those who are living around Patna juction will find traveling to Digha extremely time taking. A better idea is to take an auto till Hajipur or atleast Gandhi Setu from where you’ll find a ride for Hajipur. Ask the auto driver to drop you at the point from where the rides for Sonepur are available. From here another autorikshaw will drop you at Sonepur.

Best time to visit Sonepur Mela

Sonepur Mela starts from Karthik Purnima and goes on till late December or early January. The best time to visit this mela is during the first few days because the late you go, you’ll find the cattles sold out and sadhus gone away.  November is the best time to visit Sonepur Mela.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Love the edit of th epics! Well done and thought out. Particularly love pictures of the people. 🙂

  2. Ketki Gadre

    I had not heard about Sonepur mela before but looks like a fun event. It creeps me out to see the bikers go around in the ring in full speed. I simply cannot watch it thinking they will slide off. Nice article from an offbeat destination.

  3. Wow! It sounds like you have some amazing childhood memories, the maut ka kaun looks scary but I can imagine it being just as much of a rush to wash as it is to take part in!

  4. Fairuz Ibrahim

    Sonepur Mela sounds like a festival I’d like to go to. Maut Ka Kuan definitely looks scary, but I guess the performers have done it a thousand times and make it look so easy. Another thing about this festival that sparks my interest is the food and culture on offer. I’ve never heard of Ghewar or Gulabjamuns, but I’d love to try them. You have truly captured the essence of this festival. And thanks for the tip on when best to go there, which is in November.

  5. OMG! Photonovel is amazing! It’s a really good guide and I am impressed of your photography skills! I will definitely put Sonepur to my bucket list!

  6. Amy Dodd

    Wow these are amazing photos! You really did capture the life at Sonepur Mela. I appreciate all the photos, and especially the long exposure ones. Lovely.

  7. shreyasaha1987

    I would love to visit such fair. India has such diversities and it is so colourful. Loved your pictures.