Tarnetar is a small town, 200 km from Ahmadabad is the home of “Tarnetar Fair”. Last year I visited Tarnetar to see the only betrothal fair in the world. In this fair, prospective brides choose the eligible bride grooms that resembles ancient Indian tradition called Swayamvara.
Photo from Flickr
The Tarnetar fair is organized in the Trineteshwar temple, an ancient temple built in the 13th century and renovated in the 20th century by Maharajas of Baroda. This temple follows traditional Hindu temple architecture, with an entrance supported by huge columns, prayer hall, and a main sanctum. As per Indian mythology, in this temple Mahabharatha’s Arjuna married king Panchal Naresh Drupad’s daughter Draupadi. The king ran a contest to shoot the eye of a fish revolving on a ceiling without seeing the fish but only the fish’s reflection in the water below. Arjuna won contest and married Draupadi at the Trineteshwar temple. Thus the temple site became the place for this fair. Other legendary stories also exist. For example, Hindu’s holy river Ganges flowed through this place before changing its course, so the water tank in the temple is considered to be holy during the fair.
Colorful Brides and Grooms
During the fair, people from across the villages arrive by bullock carts, tractors, and by foot. Eligible women and men come dressed with colorful and bright dresses with various ornaments decorated in their bodies. Men typically come with embroidered jackets, coats, turbans, gold ear rings, silver wrest bands and bright colored shoes. Young women wear ghagras with choli tops, and odhnis (traditional women wear), all of which are brilliant decorated with scintillating color mirrors on it. Furthermore, their entire body is adorned with beautiful ornaments that will enhance the dress. The animals of the town, like the cows, camels, and horses will also be decorated with colorful cloths.
The fairground near the temple is crowded with people enjoying themselves in various sports activities, rides, and meeting with other community friends and relatives. As the music reaches the climax, people break into small groups and perform their flock dances. The most popular dance in the fair is called Hudo Raas, in which groups of men and women clap their hands and beat their feet in the ground to the rythym of the music.
As the time progresses, young women approach young men, talking to them to find if the man can be a suitable lifetime partner or not. The final decision happens at the end of the fair when both families of men and women discuss to finalize the weeding date. It is interesting to see in a country like India, which is still rife with patriarchy, that in these remote villages women are the one who choose their life partners.
Must do activities
If you are planning to visit the Tarnetar fair you must do following three things:
-Watch the spectacular dances performed by men and women that resembles how rams butt their heads and lock horns during rutting season.
-Ride a camel or horse or a bullock cart to get the feel of the Tarnetar fair.
-This region is famous for the production of peanuts, spices and herbs. So try some of the local foods made with these ingredients.
The Tarnetar fair is held every around August-September for three days. Tarnetar can be reached by rail and air from Mumbai and Ahmadabad. Gujarat Tourism sets up camp sites during this fair and numerous hotels are present near to the fair for your accommodation.