| An elephant being bathed at Sonepur Fair. The government is planning to phase out cattle trade from the fair and give it a facelift. Telegraph picture |
Sonepur Mela — one of the largest animal fairs in Asia — may soon have no cattle.
Tourism minister Sunil Kumar on Wednesday told The Telegraph that because of the changing laws regarding the purchase and sale of cattle, the number of animals at the fair has decreased considerably. He added that it was time to rethink on how to transform the fair while retaining its popularity.
“Bihar is known for its cattle fairs,” said Sunil. “The Sonepur Mela is a historic fair. It attracts a large number of foreign tourists, who come to see the elephants and the traditional haathi snan (bathing of elephants in the Gandak). Cattle fairs are also held in Purnea, Kishanganj, Banka and Araria. People visit these fairs to buy and sell cattle.
“However, over the years, the number of cattle coming to the fair has decreased considerably. So, it is essential for these fairs to transform themselves and become more mainstream.”
The transformation will begin next year itself.
“According to the recent instructions of the chief minister, the tourism department will host all the fairs taking place in the state from the next year,” said Sunil.
He added: “We don’t want to remove all the cattle from the fairs immediately. The idea is to change the perception people have of these fairs.”
The tourism department plans to introduce more events at the fairs. The purchase and sale of cattle would be phased out gradually.
“It will be done smoothly. There is no hurry,” said the minister.
Sunil also spoke on the experience of organising the Sonepur Mela for the first time this year.
“There were a few problems but the revenue collection increased. Last year, we had collected Rs 60 lakh. This year, the collection was Rs 1.32 crore,” he said.
Sunil added: “The sale of elephants is banned at Sonepur Fair but people still come to see the pachyderms. But there are many rules about transporting elephants. The number of the large mammals has decreased considerably. The famous bathing of elephants on Karthik Purnima could also not be performed this year because the Gandak has changed its course.