The Sonepur Cattle Fair takes place for about a month each year at the confluence of the Rivers Ganges and Gandak about 25km from Patna. It is held for about a month around Kartik Poornima, the full moon day, with the busiest days being either side of Full Moon.
The fair is centred on the Hariharnath temple at the confluence, and many of the million or so visitors will take the opportunity to bathe in the holy river waters. Every sort of animal and bird can be bought here, from dogs, cats, monkeys and songbirds to water buffalo, horses, camels and elephants – many of the latter are beautifully decorated for the event.
There are also numerous sideshows and stalls, selling fabric and clothes, ornaments, toys, weapons and agricultural implements, while entertainers and jugglers perform to the crowds.
We shall anchor midstream at Kumhar Ghat, whence a 15-minute drive will take us each day to the fair, thus combining seclusion from the crowds and ready accessibility to the action. Alternatively, if river conditions permit, we will take our country boat to the fair itself. We plan to have our own tent with attached bathroom available on site to provide respite from the crowds.
We shall also organise optional excursions during the extension. One will be to the Tomb of Shah Daulat at Maner, the finest Mughal monument in Eastern India, perhaps combined with a visit to the State Museum, while another could be to the State Printing Press, once the East India Company’s opium warehouses. A third, longer, trip might take us to Vaishali, a site, sacred to both Buddhists and Jains, which lies a few km north of Sonepur. Here Buddha preached his last sermon, and we shall see a pillar erected by the Emperor Ashoka around 230 BC, as well as visiting the archaeological museum and the nearby Jain shrine.
For those combining the Sonepur Cattle Fair with a Ganges cruise, we offer on the changeover day an excursion to Boddh Gaya, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment and of the bodhi tree under which he sat. Surrounding the great Mahabodhi temple are the temples and monasteries of many Buddhist cultures, Japan, Bhutan, Tibet, Thailand, and others.
Day 1. Board PM. Either this evening or early next day sail upstream from Patna.
Days 2-3. At Sonepur, visiting the fair, Vaishali and/or Maner.
Day 4. Sail downstream to Patna. Disembark after breakfast.
Itinerary subject to river conditions