After the 10 day period of animal trading, and a lull of about 4-5 days, the religious fair starts. Vast numbers of shops offering an amazing multitude of goods stretch as far out as the eye can see and beyond. The various religious sects and their attendant Sadhus (ascetics) too set up camp. Families dressed in their colourful best visit for the obligatory dip in the river, prayers at the temples, blessings of the holy-men, gorge on local gastronomic delights and indulge in a spot of good old shopping therapy!
The main Bateshwarnath temple and its ghat are the focal point of all the rituals and ceremonies. The great day is Puranmasi (full moon); when the assembled pilgrims bathe in the Yamuna and make offerings in the temple of Bateshwarnath.
Given the significance of the Bateshwar pilgrimage to most Hindus, the large numbers of pilgrims are not surprising. As early as 1884 the gazetteer noted “the persons present on that day have been calculated (mainly by actual counting) to number 150,000 and that is probably an average attendance; this great crowd however does not last more than 24 hours, if so long.”
This great crowd has grown much larger over these many years and does not melt away quite so quickly. The numbers start mounting 2 days before the full moon. All along the roads leading into Bateshwar every manner of transport, be they trucks, buses, tractor trolleys or horse drawn carts, may be seen bursting at the seams with their ever cheerful passengers.
It is this vast and colourful multitude that gives the Bateshwar fair its vibrant energy and provides a unique glimpse of rural India that has retained its distinct flavour even as the world beyond has changed beyond recognition.