India is a land of fairs and festivals. They are held on important days in the life of the different communities living in this vast country. Fairs have an importance of their own. Not only do they afford an opportunity to the people to enjoy themselves and thus break the dull routine of life but also provide a nice occasion for social gatherings.
Fairs are usually celebrated on the occasion of some festivals or on the birthdays of some great saints or sages. They are usually held on the banks of important rivers. Thousands of people, men and women, boys and girls attend the fair. Gaily dressed women look like numerous butterflies. They eat, dance and sing. Children run about in joy, looking for the toys they love.
Fairs are a great attraction for the people. Visitors from the cities and neighbouring villages gather there. They come by buses, bullock-carts, tongas and cycles. Here and there are seen cars too.
I went to see the Baisakhi fair on the bank of the river Jamuna. It was the early hour of the morning. I went there by bus. There was a great rush on the banks. Old men and women were taking bath in the holy waters of the river. As the day advanced, more and more people came there. It seemed as if all the roads on that day led to the river. By noon there was a vast crowd of people. The villagers were dressed in their best.
They were singing folk-songs. Soon a little city seemed to have sprung up on the banks. There were rows upon rows stalls. There was a rush of children at the stalls dealing with toy and dolls. Bangle-sellers, too, attracted purchasers. There were bangles of all colours and shades.
The 'chatwalas' too, drew good many customers and so did the confectioners. Besides, there were hawkers1 of all sorts of things. In one corner there were merry-go-rounds. Children were enjoying a joy-ride. I went round the whole place and shared the mirth of the people.
In one corner of the fair I came upon a fortune-teller. He wanted to read my palm but I have no faith in these people and, therefore, went my way. I was soon attracted by a magician. He was showing his tricks and kept the crowd spellbound.
Soon I reached an open space where I noticed a large number of people standing in a semicircle round a snake charmer. The snake charmer was playing on a flute to charm a snake in his basket. I stayed there for about five minutes and then moved on.