(Poush Mela at Santiniketan; Annually, 23rd – 28th December)
Poush Mela is an annual fair and festival held in Santiniketan, Birbhum District, West Bengal, India, marking the harvest season. It commences on the 7th day of the Bengali month of Poush and officially lasts for three days, although vendors may stay longer.
The History of Poush Mela
The history of Poush Mela dates back to 1894 when it was first organized in Santiniketan, West Bengal. The fair was initially held on the north side of the Brahma Mandir (also known as the glass temple) and featured a firework display after evening prayers. As the fair grew in size, it was shifted to the field in Purbapalli. The festival has been held annually since its inception, except for three instances due to the Bengal Famine of 1943, Direct Action Day of 1946, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an integral part of West Bengal’s culture, attracting tourists from around the world and featuring cultural programs, live performances, and various stalls.
The significance behind Poush Mela
The significance of Poush Mela lies in its celebration of the harvest season, cultural heritage, and the promotion of local arts and crafts. The festival is an integral part of West Bengal’s culture and attracts tourists from around the world. It provides a platform for local artists, performers, and craftsmen to showcase their talents and sell their products, thus supporting the local economy. Poush Mela also fosters a sense of community and unity among the people of West Bengal, as they come together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage. The festival features various cultural programs, live performances, and stalls selling handicrafts, traditional food, and other items, making it a vibrant and lively event.
The high point of Shantiniketan’s festive calendar, Poush Mela fair brings together artists, musicians, artisans and poets from nearby villages and far-flung continents. You can spend time with the bauls (the wandering minstrels of Bengal) and listen to their songs about life and love, or roam stalls selling tribal crafts and clothing. Lip-smacking regional fare is served up at the food stalls. One of the main features of this fair is the performance of Bengali folk music (especially baul songs).
Poush Mela features around 1,500 stalls and attracts an average of 10,000 tourists over three days. However, on other important days such as Paush Utsav, Vasant Utsav, Rabindra Paksha, and New Year, the number of tourists visiting Santiniketan can reach 40,000 or more per day. Despite this influx of visitors, Santiniketan has a limited number of tourist lodgings with a capacity for only 1,650 people. Visitors may also rent local houses during festivals. The fair offers a variety of local printed textiles and products from the cottage industry.
Poush Mela begins on 7 Poush, around December 23rd. On the first day, the Vaitalik group sings songs and performs a procession around the ashram in the morning. Afterwards, worship takes place at Chhatimatla, followed by singing and participation in Uttarayan. There is no Vaikalik before worship at Chhatimatla.
On Other Days …
Bengali folk music (especially Baul songs) is organized at Paushmela. Folk music is accompanied by folk dance and folk sports. Cultural artefacts from all regions of West Bengal are exhibited in this fair. Students of Santiniketan organized dance, song and drama. Different kinds of events are organized every day. The last day of the fair is dedicated to the personalities of Santiniketan.
The Poush Mela officially lasts for three days, although vendors may stay until the end of the month.
Activities During Poush Mela
During the Poush Mela festival, various activities take place that showcase the rich cultural heritage of West Bengal. Some of the key activities include:
- Cultural programs: The festival features numerous cultural programs, including traditional dance and music performances, which highlight the region’s artistic talents.
- Live performances: Local artists and performers showcase their skills through live performances, attracting both locals and tourists.
- Stalls and vendors: Poush Mela is characterized by numerous stalls selling handicrafts, traditional food, and other items. These stalls provide a platform for local craftsmen and vendors to promote their products and support the local economy.
- Community gatherings: The festival fosters a sense of community and unity among the people of West Bengal, as they come together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage.