This article describes a colourful and mesmeric
fair which is held a few days after Holi, every year in Meerut in
Uttar Pradesh.For a month, the city hums with activity with people
from far and near coming to participate in the fair. With dusk, all
the roads lead to Nauchandi ground the venue of the Mela.
Numerous melas (fairs)
are held around the country but there is nothing like the Nauchandi
Mela of Meerut. The Nauchandi Mela has been a tradition of hundreds
of years. More precisely, it started way back in 1672 AD as a
one-day affair, mainly for cattle traders. Since then the mela has
undergone many metamophoses. Cattle trading has been replaced by a
multitude of activities a mixture of religious fervour,
commercial activity, artistic creativity and rustic merriment.
The period of the mela
stretches for over a month now. Except for 1858, a year after the
revolt against the East India Company rule, which started from
Meerut, the fair has been held without fail.
As the rest of the
country goes to sleep, the industrial and garrison town of western
Uttar Pradesh wakes up for a night long binge. With the setting sun
colourful lights come on and by 8 pm the show is in full swing as big
and small traders jostle over the screeching public address system to
attract the attention of thousands of curious visitors. One has to
really see it to believe its vastness, variety, colour, gaiety and
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.
According to one belief,
Mandodari, Ravans (demon king of Lanka in the epic Ramayana)
wife, was born in a devils 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 1017 AD 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 of Bala Mian. The present dargah
was built in his memory in 1194 AD by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, at the spot
where his cut finger had fallen during the battle.
The mela also figured
during the mutiny when one of the promiminent figures of the 1857
revolt, Nana Saheb came here to motivate the locals to raise arms
against the British. When the British regained control, in order to
assuage the feelings of the natives, they put up posters of Nana
Saheb and his warriors at the Nauchandi mela which used to be held
for a few days only during that period.
According to yet another
version, the East India Company used to put up the fair as a revenue
collection centre around 1800. And in 1884, F.N.Wright, the then
collector of Meerut district used to organize a horse exhibition
where thoroughbred stallions used to be sold. Of course, true to
this gala event, other activities commensurate with the mela used to
be organized to attract prospective buyers.
Initially the management
of the mela was in the hands of the landlords. Now-a-days, the local
municipal corporation is in charge and the city mayor is the chairman
of the organizing committee. Equally striking is the fine management
of the mela which has over a thousand stalls and plays host to over
50,000 people every day.
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, flower pots and beautiful
Thousands of bulbs and
tube-lights illuminate the premises and the main gates-four in
number-are lavishly decorated. The stalls and shops are also
decorated with spotless white cloth known as chandhnis in local
The mela which originally
brought sellers and buyers of utensils and domestic animals together,
has increased its repertory to include various kinds of goods,
entertainment and food. Shopkeepers from all over Uttar Pradesh and
Delhi put up stalls. A fascinating variety of things can be found at
You name them and they
are there. Chikan work from Lucknow, 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, bedsheets from Panipat, cane furniture from Assam and what
products like sports goods, scissors and gajaks (a sweetmeat) are
also available. And, the prices are really quite reasonable.
Beneath the open starry
and moonlit skies, a visit to the mela with family and friends can be
great fun, and one of its special charms is the happy blend of urban
and rural flavours. There are swings, merry-go-rounds, circus shows,
toys, boating and various fun competitions to keep children and even
the elders amused.
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
very special flavoured jalebi, mouth watering chole bhature and makki
ki roti with sarson ki saag, golgoppas and even idli, dosa and vada
can be had. Then, there are various kinds of flavoured mild,
jal-jeera, cold drinks, ice creams and kulfis to keep your palate
Stalls selling churan,
pachak-ki-goli (digestive pills) and paan stalls are other
attractions. Some of the items you will, perhaps, be seeing for the
first time, like the yellow kesar fruit.
The cultural aspect of
the Nauchandi Mela is also important. Every evening some cultural
programme or the other are held, which go on till the early hours of
the morning. The mela has had the honour of staging artistes like
the internationally renowned Pandit Ravi Shankar. Besides, the mela
committee has launched a few new events like beauty contests,
honouring the aged, organizing womens 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.
With the changing times,
the Nauchandi has also changed a lot. Rapid commercialization and
cut throat competitions between the sellers have taken away some of
its charm. Though it is strictly known as a traditional mela, in the
recent past the modern facets have overshadowed the traditional
elements. Another perceptible change is that of the modern
recreation in place of traditional ones.
(melodramas performed by professional theatre companies ) are still
staged, the real crowd puller is the musical-nights with modern
All said and done, this
annual cultural extravaganza deserves at least one visit.
Meerut is roughly a two
hour drive from Delhi.
There is a bust service
from the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT), Delhi, at every five minute
interval and you need not worry about having to spend the night in
Meerut for you get return buses throughout the night at quick
The mela does not start
on any fixed calendar date but it has its own pattern. It starts on
the second Sunday after the festival of Holi every year which is held
some time in March.