Winter fairs are an important part of Bengali cultural cum religious meet. The months of Poush and Magh fall in December and January, the winter-time in West Bengal. During winter, the climate of southern parts of West Bengal remains cool and pleasant, with almost no rain. That is why, this is the best time for fairs, called mela in Bengali in various districts in West Bengal. Uncountable small fairs are held in almost all parts of West Bengal at the peak of winter. In this article, we have listed 5 fairs that have special mention throughout the world for their cultural and religious importance.
Gangasagar Mela is the world’s second-largest congregation of mankind in the whole world after Kumbha Mela. The fair and the pilgrimage site is located on an island in the southernmost part of West Bengal, where the river Ganga meets the sea. Every year on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the last day of Poush falling on 14th January, lakhs of pilgrims visit Gangasagar island to take a bath at the river-sea confluence. The pilgrims pray at Kapil Muni ashram on the island and a large fair is held for the visitors.
Shantiniketan in Birbhum district is widely known for the residence of Rabindranath Tagore. It is also equally famous for seasonal festivals like the Poush Mela and Holi. Poush Mela is a cultural meet for all villagers around Shantiniketan where a huge fair is held every year. The practice was started by Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Devendranath Tagore to mark the harvest season. Starting from the 7th day of Poush and continuing for 3 days, this fair attracts visitors from all over Bengal and India.
3)Joydev Kenduli Mela
Joydev was a renowned poet from Bengal, who was born in Kenduli village of Birbhum district. An annual cultural fair is held every year in Kenduli, called Kenduli fair, starting from Makar Sankranti and continuing up to 3 days. The Kenduli fair is especially known for the largest congregation of bauls, a group of mystic minstrels. The baul songs with ektara, a musical instrument with one string attracts visitors from far cities and villages across the country.
4)Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival
This festival is celebrated in the northern parts of West Bengal in Darjeeling, hosted by West Bengal tourism. Darjeeling is renowned for its tea, having a unique flavour of its own. Tourists throng Darjeeling in late November or early December to take part in this festival, get accustomed to the music, dance and culture presented by the local tribes of Darjeeling hills.
5)Kolkata Book Fair
The international book fair in Kolkata is a non-trade book fair in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. It is the largest non-trade fair in the world, where books are sold for public sale rather than wholesale. All small and big publishing companies, as well as international book publishers, turn up at Kolkata every winter in the latter half of January. Since its inception in 1976, the Kolkata book fair not only proved successful but also paved way for future book fairs and handicraft fairs across the whole country.
Written by – Himadri Paul