The Sonepur Cattle Fair is held on Kartik Poornima (the full moon day) in the month of November in Sonpur, Bihar, on the confluence of river Ganges and Gandak. It is also known as Harihar Kshetra Mela and it attracts visitors from all over Asia. Till date, it is the biggest cattle fair of Asia and stretches on from fifteen days to one month.
It has its origins during ancient times. This is when Chandragupta Maurya (340 - 297 BCE) used to buy elephants and horses across the river Ganges. The Sonepur Cattle Fair once used to attract traders from places as distant as Central Asia. In 2017, the Fair started on November 2 and continue till December 3.
Many farm animals can be bought at the Sonepur mela from all breeds of dogs, buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, Persian horses, rabbits, goats and even the occasional camel. Many varieties of birds and poultry are also available. The area that attracts all, however, is the Haathi Bazaar where elephants are lined up for sale. The Sonepur Fair is the only place where such a large number of elephants are traded — although they cannot legally be sold. Numerous stalls are also set up at the grounds of the Sonepur Cattle Fair.
Trade in elephants has been prohibited at Sonepur Mela since 2004 owing to strict enforcement of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and further denial of transfer of ownership certificate to the elephant owners. One will find a wide variety of goods in these stalls, ranging from garments, to weapons and furniture, toys, utensils and agricultural implements, jewelry and handicrafts. A major attraction is the sight of numerous elephants, beautifully decorated for the purpose of sale. In 2001, the number of elephants brought to Sonpur Mela was 92, 354 elephants in 2004, while in 2016, 13 elephants made it to the fair, only for display, not for sale. In 2017, there were 3 tuskers at the fair.
A 'railgram' stall is set up by Railways, where toy train is also erected for children. Sonepur Mela continues to attract foreign tourists who arrive with the motive of capturing various elements of rural settlement. Apart from the photo opportunity, elephants continue to lure most foreign tourists. Swiss cottages are set up by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) at the Sonepur fair, with facilities of Internet facility, motor boat ride in river Gandak , food at the tourist village and pre-paid taxis from Patna Airport to Sonpur fair. Disneyland park is set up during the Sonpur Mela.