By Nivedita Singh:
Although there are differences in the beliefs of Hindu and Muslims, even then Awadh is considered as the centre of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. Budhakki ka mela, also known as Daliganj mela and Ganga Snan Mela is one of the finest examples of that. One can find the perfect blend of the Hindu-Muslim unity in this fair. Although it is organized after the Kartik purnima snan (a Hindu ritual), most of the shopkeepers are not Hindu and the customers are also of all religions.
It is also special because at a time when people prefer going to malls and shopping complexes, Budhakki ka mela is an amazing thing to see. It is a street fair with shops on the road’s pavement, where one can find almost all sorts of things. It not only deals with various jhoolas (swings and rides) and food stall like any other fair, but also deals with all sorts of household goods, clothing and footwear shops, handicrafts, utensils, glass wares, crockery, magic shows, photo studios and various other unique and fancy shops.
The mela lasts for around 40 days after the Kartik purnima snan. This time, it is from November 25 to January 8 near the Indira Gandhi Planetarium. Every day thousands and thousands of people came to this fair. It offers things on the cheapest possible rates. One can find items ranging from ₹2 to ₹2000. No one knows when this fair first began, but some say that it has been around from the time of Akbar and Wajid Ali Shah also gave importance to it. Shopkeepers from various parts of Uttar Pradesh came to sell special and low-priced goods.
Sansar Ali from Allahabad, owns a key-ring shop and has been participating in the fair for the past 28 years and does not have any permanent shop anywhere else. He writes names and personalized messages on the key-rings. He earns his living by the temporary shop only.
Another shopkeeper Abdul Mannan, is from Lucknow and has a permanent crockery shop in Mahanagar but he has been coming to this fair since 1978. He too does not know when the fair started. Shahid, a utensil shop-owner from Kanpur said, “I have been coming here for 15 years and before that my father and elder brother used to come here.”
Recently, there has been a debate over where the fair should be held. The priest of the Mankameshwar Mandir is of the thought that this fair should be shifted to that part of Gomti near the temple, which has received a mixed response from shopkeepers.
Mohammad Nafis, a bangle store owner from Kanpur who has been a part of the fair from past 20 years feels that this is a better place for the fair. He said, “That area is not safe for women and also there are two educational institutes nearby – Lucknow University and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama College and if the fair is shifted to that side then it will be a disturbance for those institutes as well.”
Some other shopkeepers feel that it is better to shift there because the temple committee will be responsible for the security and safety of shopkeepers which isn’t available now and gunda elements keep threatening them. There will be regular rules for the shops since they are paying very high for it and have to pay at multiple levels. They will also get a proper parent organization for the fair. Some feel that the authority and police and not able to maintain the crowd and the traffic.
The debate was finally settled when it was announced that 2016 onwards, the mela will be organized in the Mankameshwar Mandir lawn. The authority has also promised free place and electricity for which the shopkeepers are paying ₹ 150 and ₹ 80 respectively per day right now.
Images contributed by author.