The Nauchandi mela is held on the second Sunday after Holi every year in Meerut in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. For a month, the city hums with activity as people from far and near coming to participate in the fair. Initially, the management of the mela was in the hands of the landlords but now it is organised by the local municipal corporation. The management of the mela is striking. It has over a thousand stalls, and plays host to over 50,000 people every day.
Location: Meerut, Uttar Pradesh
Time of the year: Second Sunday after Holi
Duration: One month
History of Mela
The fair has its own history and numerous legends and stories are woven around it. It started in AD 1672 as a one-day affair mainly for cattle traders but has since undergone many changes. Cattle trading has been replaced by a multitude of activities-religious rituals, commercial activity, artistic creativity and rustic merriment.
The mela also figured during the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 when one of the prominent figures of the revolt, Nana Saheb, came here to motivate the locals to raise arms against the British. When the British regained control, they put up posters of Nana Saheb and his warriors at the Nauchandi mela to gain favor of the local populace.According to another story, the East India Company used to put up the fair as a revenue collection center around 1800. And in 1884, F.N.Wright, the then collector of Meerut district started a horse exhibition where thoroughbred stallions were sold. Of course, other activities commensurate with the mela used to be organized to attract prospective buyers. The period of the mela stretches for over a month now. Except in 1858, a year after the revolt against the East India Company rule started from Meerut, the fair has been held here regularly.
According to one belief, Mandodari, Ravan’s (demon king of Lanka in the epic Ramayana) wife, was born in a devil’s house in Meerut. She was, however, a great devotee of goddess Chandi and she had a temple erected in her honour. A religious festival was held to celebrate this occasion. Since then the fair has been held every year.
As the legend of the dargah goes, Syed Salar Masood Ghazi was a commander in the army of Mahmood of Ghazni who invaded India in AD 1017 and proved his mettle in the fight against the local king. During the course of a battle, he lost one of his fingers. Syed Salar subsequently denounced violence, became an ascetic, and took the name Bala Mian. The present dargah was built in his memory in AD 1194 by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, at the spot where his cut finger had fallen during the battle.
Attractions of Mela
Significantly, the mela is a rare symbol of communal harmony with Hindu and Muslim shrines – Nauchandi temple and the dargah (shrine) of Muslim saint, Bala Mian – lying close by. Visitors pay obeisance at both the shrines irrespective of the religion they belong to. The fair has its own history and numerous legends and stories are woven around it. The sprawling four-and-a-half square kilometer area where the fair is held is strewn with red sand, which brightens up the place. The neat pathways are interspersed with flowerbeds and fountains.
Thousands of bulbs and tube-lights illuminate the premises and the four main gates are lavishly decorated. The stalls and shops are also decorated with spotless white cloth known as chandhnis in local parlance.
The mela, which originally brought sellers and buyers of utensils and domestic animals together, has increased its repertoire to include various kinds of goods, entertainment, and food. Shopkeepers from all over Uttar Pradesh and Delhi put up stalls here. A fascinating variety of things can be found at the mela.
Chikan work from Luckhnow, brassware from Moradabad, carpets and rugs from Varanasi, footwear from Agra, leather items from Kanpur, kohl from Bareilly, perfumes from Kannauj, bangles from Ferozabad, china clay items from Khurja, costume jewellery from Jaipur, bed sheets from Panipat, cane furniture from Assam and a lot more are up for grabs for the visitor to the mela. Meerut’s own products like sports goods, scissors, and gajak (a sweetmeat) are also available at reasonable prices. One of the special charms of this fair is the happy blend of urban and rural flavors seen here. There are swings, merry-go-rounds, circus shows, toys, boating and various fun competitions to keep children and even the elders pleased.The mela is a feast not only for the eyes but for the palate too as there are stalls selling a wide variety of food-the famous giant size halwa-paratha, a special flavored jalebi, mouth watering chole bhature and makki ki roti with sarson ka saag, golgoppas and even idli, dosa and vada can be had. Then, there are various kinds of flavored mild, jal-jeera, soft drinks, ice creams and kulfis to keep the palate cool. Stalls selling churan, pachak-ki-goli (digestive pills) and paan are some other attractions. A fruit one could be seeing for the first time at this mela is the yellow kesar fruit.
Rituals of Mela
The cultural aspect of the Nauchandi Mela is also as important. Every evening some cultural programme or the other is held, which goes on till the early hours of the morning. The mela has had the honor of playing host to artistes like the internationally renowned Pandit Ravi Shankar. Besides, the mela committee has started a few new events like beauty contests, honoring the aged, organizing women’s conferences, fireworks and music competitions. Plans are also afoot to set up an art gallery and museum to preserve the historic, cultural and artistic aspects of the mela.
While nautankis (melodramas performed by professional theatre companies) are still staged, the real crowd puller are the musical programmes with modern orchestra.
Getting there and Around
By Air –
Meerut is situated very close to New Delhi, the seat of Indian Government. Delhi Airport is 60 odd Kilometers from Meerut. Delhi is in turn well connected to rest of India and world through a range of flights operated by various private and public carriers. From Delhi, one can hire a cab and reach Meerut in an hour and half via National Highways 24 and then NH 58.
By Road –
Meerut is well connected to the cities like Mathura, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jhansi and Agra etc. Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation plies several buses to these cities. Various privately run luxury buses are also available.
By Rail –
The nearest railway station is Meerut Cantonment Station that falls on the busy Delhi-Dehradun line of North Central Railways. Several Passenger as well as super fast trains connect Meerut to other popular towns and cities in Uttar Pradesh and rest of India. It has direct connectivity to cities like Delhi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Jaipur and Lucknow.
The city has a wide range of accomodations – from the expensive deluxe five-star hotels that are the best in the world, to middle-range hotels and guest houses that are often well-appointed and offer a comfortable stay, to down-market tourist lodges in crowded localities, which are very inexpensive but offer minimal amenities. With the booming economy and the aggressive policies of the tourism department, newer hotels are springing up fast in the city.Some of good hotels in Meerut are Hotel Crystal Palace, Hotal Naveen, Hoel Deep , Hotel Mayur.
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