HERE, THE BEASTS OF BURDEN REIGN SUPREME

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Colors of Culture and Heritage, The NamoLeague Times
Tags: , , , , , ,

Gujarat is home to a number of fairs and festivities. Among these lie a very unusual trade fair – where the trade products are animals! And like most of the fair sites in India, this also has both mythological and contemporary religious associations. Vautha Fair is a five-day animal buying and selling extravaganza, with fairground rides, stalls and celebrations. It is the largest animal trade fair of Gujarat which involves the trading of basically donkeys, along with camels and cattle.

THE FAIRGROUND

The fair is held every year at Vautha, the place where two rivers, the Sabarmati and the Vatrak meet. The Vautha Fair site is three square miles in area. The place is also called Saptasangam, because seven holy rivers mix waters here: The Vatrak merges with the Meshwo, Hathmati, Shedhi, Majum and Khari and then meets the Sabarmati. Also, the fairground is 26 km from Dholka, which is called ‘Virata Nagar’ of the Mahabharata where the Pandavas spent the last year of their exile in disguise. The temple of Siddhanath i.e. Lord Shiva is another attraction of Vautha.

THE TIMES GONE BY

The Vautha Fair is held on Kartik Purnima, the full moon night in the month of Kartik as per the Hindu calendar (Corresponding to October-November). This is because the legends hold that Kartik Swami or Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, visited the site during his journey round the earth, and performed austerities at the meeting point of the rivers on Kartik Purnima. His paglas are still worshipped here.

THE ANIMALS STEAL THE SHOW

Vautha Fair is at par with the famous camel fair at Pushkar, Rajasthan. The only difference being that here, most of the times, the animals to be traded are donkeys. Camels and other cattle are a less emphasized sight at Vautha Fair. More than 5,000 donkeys decorated with an array of colors and other embellishments are brought for sale at the fair.

The camel mart takes place on the sand dunes by the river shores, while the donkey mart takes place in the fields adjoining the fair.

THE FOLK

For a long time now, the tradition is that the people who participate in the Vautha fair lock up their houses and move to the fairground. Hundreds of families, around 25,000 people shift to the 2,000 makeshift tents on the banks of the river. They cook a feast of various dishes like Khichu and Kachariyu, often ending up with Laddoos on the last day of the celebrations.

The Vautha Village is a small time place with a population of hardly 2,000 inhabitants. Yet this fair brings together more than 500,000 visitors. The fair attracts people from the Jath Vanjara communities, as well as other pastoral groups. Villagers from surrounding agricultural areas of Bhal and Nalkantha in Ahmedabad district, and Charotar in Kheda district, are also seen in large numbers. A noticeable difference in the participating folk is that earlier, they were limited to the Hindu community. But now, even the Muslims visit the fair in large numbers.

It is indeed a grand spectacle to see the masters of the animals clad in traditional dresses and elaborate headgear, with their livestock.

THE BUSTLING SCENE AT THE FAIR

The fair is more important than the festival of Diwali for most of the local people. They forget their woes and rejoice during the five days of the fair. Handicraft and food stalls come up alongside the tented pastoral settlements at the river side. Active street hawkers are found almost everywhere at the fairground. Merchants selling everything from ornaments to machinery are also a common sight at the fair.

A shimmering dance of faith and beauty is performed in the evenings when the pilgrims set afloat numerous small lamps in the river. The most important event, however, is the purifying bath in the sacred confluence on Kartik Purnima. This holy dip is supposed to be the reliever of all the past sins.

THE FAIR IS NOT TOTALLY FAIR

Vautha fair, being the largest animal fair of Gujarat can serve as a platform to spread the animal welfare messages. However, the facilities at the fair need better attention as during loading-unloading and also during the stay at the fairground, many animals are badly injured. Other issues are lack of enough water-fodder, no cleanliness, and abandon of ill animals during the fair etc.

RURAL GUJARAT

The fair, however, is very important for Gujarat, not only in terms of religious and historical beliefs but also commercially. It’s not just fun and color as the donkeys fetch as much as 15,000 rupees each. Apart from animal trading, the fair has also become a favorite tourist destination and attracted thousands of people from long distances. The local people come closer and stay as a family during the celebration of the Vautha Fair.

Vautha Fair is scheduled on the 21st-22nd November in 2010. How can one miss this chance of exploring rural Gujarat?

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=HERE,%20THE%20BEASTS%20OF%20BURDEN%20REIGN%20SUPREME_252

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s