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Nauchandi Mela of Meerut

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 Cattle trading has been replaced by a multitude of activities – a mixture of religious fervour, commercial activity, artistic creativity and rustic merriment.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 enthusiasm.

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, 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 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.

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, flower pots and beautiful fountains.

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 parlance.

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 the mela.

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 not.

Meerut’s own 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 cool.

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 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.

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.

While nautankis (melodramas performed by professional theatre companies ) are still staged, the real crowd puller is the musical-nights with modern orchestra.

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 intervals.

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.

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