Culture, traditions, desert safaris, folk dance, colorful ensemble, sumptuous food and a distinct mix of demography are the beads that make the garland Rajasthan; finding its place in each globetrotter’s book of travels.
We, being from the incredible state have been on the lookout to cover its prominence in the form of art, festivals, fairs and traditions that encapsulate the lives of the people. Baneshwar Fair has been on that list for a prolonged time which finally made its way to our travel tickets this year.
Amid the winter chills of February, we, along with our friend Maithini packed our woolens, photography equipment & gear and traveled to Dungarpur which is 106 Km away from Udaipur. Baneshwar, a small delta formed by the river Soma and Mahi is at a distance of 68.4 Km from Dungarpur which hosts the famous fair dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
The village of Baneshwar took its name from Shivalinga which has its abode in Dungarpur’s Mahadev Temple. Baneshwar in the local language of Vagdi means the ‘master of delta’ that is an extension of Lord Shiva.
The tribal of Bhils from Rajasthan, neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat flocks to Baneshwar to attend the fair that takes place from Magh Shukla Ekadashi to Magh Shukla Purnima. Originally, the fair is a combination of two fairs in which one is organized to pay tribute to the Lord Shiva or the Shivalinga and the other is held to celebrate the completion of the construction of Lord Vishnu Temple by Jankunwar, daughter-in-law of well-respected Saint Mavji who is supposed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
With our childlike enthusiasm, we visited the fair which takes place over a span of 5 days and captured the massive procession that instilled a sense of spirituality while our stay there.
As we conversed with locals and the Bhils, we met face-to-face with the ongoing significance of how the fair evolved to this day today. It is known that Magh Shukla Ekadashi is revered as the ‘Pran-Pratishtha’ day for the deities of the temple, thus the fair starts from this day. The priest of the temple, also known as Mathadhish arrives to the fair ground in a big procession along with 16cm silver image of Mavji on horseback from Sabla on the eve of Ekadashi. The Mathadhish takes a dip in the river water thereby leading the worshippers to bathe beside him in the water which has been made holier by the priest’s dip. Also, some Bhils immerse the last ashes of the dead at the meeting point of the river waters during this fair.
On the day of the fair, we reached the Baneshwar Mahadev Temple which remains open from 5 AM till 11 AM during these 5 days and observed the worshipping and offerings. In the morning, saffron or ‘kesar’ was applied to the Shivalinga and was bathed with pure milk by the main priest followed by ‘Aarti’ and loud chants dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the evening, ‘bhabhut’ or ash was applied to the Linga and an ‘Aarti’ with a fine-wick lamp was waved. The devotees offered wheat flour, pulses, rice, jiggery, ghee, salt, chilies, coconut and cash to the Lord.
In the day, we took on the roads to capture the fair and we realized that the culture is a factor that links all people together. The soul is reflected through their eyes and we better understood what Baneshwar was really about. Amid framing and shooting, we witnessed prayers being offered to the deities 5 times in a day in the temples of Lakshmi Narayan and Brahma while the sounds of brass gongs reverberated in the air.
The other part of the fair resounded with the gaiety of folk songs, dances, magic shows, acrobatic feats, animal shows, joy rides, swings and a bazaar of handicraft and essential articles. One of the best experiences of traveling in Rajasthan is the ethnic assortment of people that walk past you, capturing your eyes.
While our lens focused on kids playing at a distant, a dark skinned girl, amid wicker baskets took our attention. Around the corner of a stall was this girl sitting on the ground, draped in green saree looked at us with her kohl eyes. Some people think that the truth can be hidden as she tried covering herself with a basket but as we stood there, her beauty was revealed that will never fade away from our minds.
As the day started to dim, the festivity around us took its full form. On one end of Baneshwar, village folks enacted Raas Leela in the night at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. After the act, all the devotees gathered around bonfire and sang folk songs in high pitched voices.
With a bag load of experience, spiritual essence in our mind, love in heart, beauty in our eyes and memories in our camera, we made our way back to Udaipur with a promise to visit Baneshwar again with an empty slate to be filled with the best that is yet to come.
Tribal of Bhils from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Gujarat along with tourists across globe travel to Baneshwar in Dungarpur district during the fair.
A large crowd consisting of Lord Shiva’s devotees visits Baneshwar Fair.
Baneshwar village took its name from the local language Vagdi and means the ‘master of delta,’ also a name given to Lord Shiva.
A young man from Bhil tribe wearing crochet headgear during the fair.
The fair takes place for 5 days from Magh Shukla Ekadashi to Magh Shukla Purnima.
Our friend Maithini captures local vendor selling mirrors during the fair.
Baneshwar Fair is revered as one of the most popular fairs of Rajasthan which is a combination of two fairs
People from far off travel to the village to seek blessings from Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
A young girl rests standing beside a stall at the fair.
Many vendors sell photographs of Hindu Gods along with pictures of Saint Mavji, a well-respected saint of Baneshwar during the fair.
Villagers take away souvenirs from the fair in the form of photo frames, stickers and posters of Hindu Gods and local deities.
Snippets of our travel to Baneshwar Fair with friend Maithini.
With a large gathering of people from varied backgrounds, Baneshwar Fair offers a plethora of frames for the photographers to capture.
Knowing the future through a tamed parrot and cryptic cards attracts the most attention during the fair. Baneshwar Fair offers a plethora of frames for the photographers to capture.
The mystical parrot returns to its cage after choosing life altering card that for some people holds the future.
The parrots aren’t the only birds tamed to predict the future.
A local young girl selling hangings at the Baneshwar Fair.
Raw beauty is something that lingers in a soul for a long time even after its absence.
We couldn’t take our eyes off the surreal beauty that the young girl held in her eyes that sparked innocence and strength at the same time.
Beauty that mesmerizes one and all.
Around 3 years old, the young boy stared at the camera and proposed to teach sword fighting with the utensil in return to few photography tricks.
A duo of mother and son pose for the camera at the Baneshwar Fair.
A woman found cooking amidst the fair.
Daal or Pulses is the most common dish used in Indian cuisine and is usually teamed up with chapati (flat bread) or rice. A tribal woman prepares Daal for her family and relatives at the fair.
Tea-the most favored drink of Indians sets the mood right be it day or night. Man found caught in the act during the fair.
With their distinct style, the young girls adorn floral patterns and artificial gold jewelry during the fair.
Amidst the crowd was found a spirited woman selling wicker baskets whose piercing eyes went right through our hearts.
Woman finding shade with the help of a basket at the fair.
Dreaming through reality.
Few boys up for mischief while another takes afternoon nap.
A man smoking ‘bidi,’ raw tobacco rolled in a leaf at the fair.
Old men take dip in the holy waters of Baneshwar.
Devotees find it auspicious and holy to take dip in the water which has been made holier by the Mathadish or the priest of the temple’s dip; according to common belief.
Besides the holy side, the fair also offers entertainment and shopping experience for the villages and tourists visiting Baneshwar.
Ferris Wheel acting as the most entertaining and thrilling mode of enjoyment for young and old alike at the fair.
A number of stalls selling utensils, jewelry, clothes, accessories and food etc. become an integral part of the fair.
Ferris Wheel and other rides at the Baneshwar Fair.
Devotees worshipping and offering prayers to Lord Shiva following Aarti and loud chants which are the highlight of the fair.
Followers of Saint Mavji gather outside Lord Vishnu Temple before the commencement of the procession.
The devotees with the deity flag march from the temple to the water body leaded by the Mathadhish or the main priest.
The most respected members of the Bhil community of the village become a part of the procession that takes place in the morning.
Saint Mavji is a well respected name of Baneshwar who according to popular belief was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and lived for good years in the village as a philanthropist and spiritual leader.
An old man wears a locket that boars the photo of Saint Mavji.
A storyteller, an old man with generations of experiences sits amid the devotees and speaks about the beliefs, traditions and fair’s significance.
Bhil community members for years have been part of the procession that is still carried out in today’s time.
Devotees belonging to Bhil community stand with flags at the commencement of the procession during Baneshwar Fair.