Friday 22 February 2013

Hunting for a husband

This is perhaps one of the most famous fairs in the world. Tourists and pilgrims from all over the world gather at this place to witness this fair, which has its roots in antiquity.
Mostly celebrated by the local tribals, the fair is steeped in legends and dates back to the times of the Mahabharata. Unlike other fairs which celebrate a religious function, this one is unique and the tribal youth come down here in all their finery to look for a suitable bride.  
This fair thus is more of a match making exercise and it is held at the exact spot where the Swayamwara of Draupadi was held and where Arjuna won her. It is this connection of the Mahabharata that make this fair a unique one with a distinct “epic” flavour.
The fair is called Tarnetar after the name of the pace in which it is held. It is available as part of the Rajkot-Tarnetar tourist circuit. This area was earlier part of the Panchal Desh.  
Tarnetar fair is celebrated every year  between  the fourth and sixth days of Shukla Paksha, near Thangadi in  Saurashtra, Gujarat.
The fair is a three day event that is held at the Shiva Temple and the deity here is better known as Trinetreshwar.
The fair is closely associated with the swamayar of  Draupadi. It is near the Shiva temple here that Arjuna defeated all other kings who had participated in the Swamyavara.
This ritual has cone down for centuries and today the tribal youths of Gujarat come here to look out for a life long companion. Folk dances, folk music and folk art is part of the fair to give it a Gujarati touch.
Youths of the Koli, Rabari, Khant, Bharwad, Charan, Kanbi come here and sit back under some of the most eye catching tents you can ever come across. The women, dressed in all their finery, walk across and then select their companion.
The women go around these umbrellas.  If a woman stops to talk to a man in the tent, it is a sign of her willingness to marry him. The marriages are solemnised after the fair.
There small pond near the Shiva temple is also the stuff of legends. It is near this pond that Arjuna stood, looked at the water and shot his arrow at the revolving fish hung above. This was the contest arranged during the Swayamvara.
The pond is considered sacred and the devotees believe it has miraculous and curative power. Pilgrims, visitors and of course the would be brides and brides groom  do not leave the fair without sprinkling its water on their bodies.
Tarnetar  is situated near Rajkot and it is part of  Surendranagar District. Surendranagar is the nearest railway station on the Ahmedabad-Hapa broadgauge line. The nearest town with road transportation is Chotila, which is about 25 km away. There are regular buses from Rajkot (75 km), Jamnagar (162 km), Ahmedabad (196 km) or Porbandar (252 km) to Tarnetar.
The nearest airport is Rajkot.
The Tourism Department of Gujarat arranges for tented accommodation at the site of the fair. A few well-decorated mud huts with modern amenities are also available.

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