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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

100 Years Old Shiva-Ratri Mela

'Mela Bari' of Serampore is still famous although the past glory of
this mela is now faded away...

It is the house of Khsetra Mohan Sha who came from an unknown village
of Bihar in the middle of nineteenth century and started residing at
Serampore of Hooghly district. It was the Oxford Street near railway
station of British period where he resided. But now it is known to all
as K M Sha Street (by his name).

At the beginning, he was the employee of East India Company's railway.
But, at the same time, he earned plenty of wealth by business. And he
spent many for the betterment of Hindus. Inspired by the Hindu Mela at
the house of Duncan saheb at Belgachia, Khsetra Mohan started Krishi
Shilpa Pradarshani O Mela (Exhibition cum fair of agriculture and art)
named under Shri Shri Shiv Shankar Jiu on the auspicious day of
Shiv-Ratri in the year 1897 in the premises of temples founded by him
in front of his residence at Serampore. Moreover, he founded a school,
library and free dispensary for the poor. But, much before these
activities, more than hundred poor people used to fed at his residence
daily. By this way, he became famous for his generous activities.
Inside the Mela Bari, a big temple and Nat Mandir is there where the
Sun God of Astadhatu, Shiv Linga of brass, goddess Kali of
Kastipathar, goddess Annapurna and Narayana made of stone are also in
the temple being worshipped regularly. Separate rooms are there for
each god and goddesses. But, the beams of ceiling are now in a poor
condition. The floor made of Italian marbles are now almost broken by
the time passed. The main door made of sagoon wood with design by
metal and copper too in a poor condition.

The Mela of Shiv-Ratri was started on 7 March and will run till 6
April of this year. This one month long fair has past glory I've seen
even in my childhood. Nahabat sehnai was there at the top of entrance,
then the exhibition of noteworthy agricultural products of nearby
villages which used to astonish us. At left, each year a new clay
model of Lord Shiva & Durga were exhibited there for the viewers. At
the right, a long hall where art work of students of local schools and
individuals were there - paintings, drawings and models of houses etc
used to decorate the wall and tables of the hall. At the end, tusks of
elephants were exhibited proudly, I remember. We used to exit at the
other end of that hall and used to enjoy the fair... the stalls packed
with toys for all ages attracted us most. The elders and young girls
still now like the stalls of utensils, kitchen appliances and
cosmetics and bungles, chains, lockets, earrings, bindis etc. Various
delicious foods like ghoogni, phuchka, papad, jilipi, badam (nuts)
bhaja, bhelpuri, coolphi, ice cream etc. were found earlier but now I
found only a few of them.

The stalls I just mentioned are still there at the fair, but the hall
lost its charm. Only the drawings and paintings made by the students
of local two drawing school are there, which is a bit monotonous.
The physical condition of that hall is very poor now.

Once, the three sides of this fair ground were used to glorify the
fame of this mela with assembles of clay models depicted various
episodes of epic Ramayana and Mahabharata. The time has snatched those
days and we lost these idols. I've seen last Saturday only a few of
them kept scattered. The scene was painful for me and I became
nostalgic. On the main road, just outside the mela bari a section of
that house is still there where in my childhood I used to watch puppet
play (rod puppet). The whole atmosphere was then really conducive to
be a village fair in true sense.

I visited the place last weekend and found that bright lights in the
evening failed to hide the dilapidated condition of the site. I came
to know that the Sha family has proposed the local municipal
authorities to keep this heritage of British period and they're
considering the matter.

--
A. B.

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