Shantiniketan: Coming together to celebrate alt ‘Poush Mela’ After the university refuses to hold that 125 year old fair, ordinary people come together to organise it at a different venue.

10, Jan 2023 | Mohammed Ripon Sheikh

After two years of being shut due to the pandemic, the annual Poush Mela of Shantiniketan, was finally held in its recognised glory. Even though local artisans and the fair committee had hoped that the fair would take place on the traditional field of Visvabharati’s Purvapalli, the authorities of the university refused to host the annual fair on their grounds.

Even when the state government requested the Visva Bharati authorities to host the fair, reportedly, Vidyut Chakraborty, Vice-Chancellor of Visva Bharati, did not even attend his own meeting. Thereafter, the petition asking for access to the university compound reached the high court, where eventually the Calcutta High Court informed that the decision regarding the organisation of the fair depends entirely on Visva Bharati. But, they also informed that the land of Purvapalli cannot be given to anyone else for Poush Mela. In order to retain the Rabindra tradition and Poush Mela of Bengal, CJP’s ally organisation Bangla Sanskriti Manch joined hands with Birbhum District Administration, Bolpur Municipality and Shantiniketan Trust and arranged for an alternative Poush Mela in a very short period of time.  

CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program is a unique initiative aiming to give voice and agency to the young, from among the communities with whom we work closely. These presently include migrant workers, Dalits, Adivasis and forest workers. CJP Fellows report on issues closest to their hearts and home, and are making impactful change every day. We hope to expand this to include far reaching ethnicities, diverse genders, Muslim artisans, sanitation workers and manual scavengers. Our raison d’etre is to dot India’s vast landscape with the committed human rights workers who carry in their hearts Constitutional values, to transform India into what our nation’s founders dreamt it to be. Please Donate Now to increase the band of CJP Grassroot Fellows.

This year, the presence of cottage arts, crafts and artisans in the fair was eye-catching.  Small and medium scale business owners came here from all over India, with all their art and craft work. This year, since it has been close for a while, the traders have been especially happy with the sales. From pottery, Dokra art, various kinds of musical instruments like the flute, small percussion pieces, iktara and other single string instruments, various books, rich textiles and organic leather goods were available in the stalls. Although it is officially supposed to be held for three days, the sale went on for almost a week. About 1000-1200 shops sat this year. Many foreign tourists visited from various south Asian countries, Europe and the US. Additionally, one of the main features of this fair is the folk music of Northern Bengal, traditionally the Baul Music. Beside Baul song there were several other traditional music and dance forms such as the Jhumur, Chow dance, tribal dance, Fakir song, Saotali song, 

One of the traders spoke to me, “Due to the long lockdown, our business had almost stopped but the alternative Poush Mela helped us turn things around. This fair has an economic aspect as well as tradition, culture. Many people save for their yearly ration by just doing these three days of trade.”

Poush Mela is the annual fair and festival held in Santiniketan in the Birbhum district of the Indian state of West Bengal.  Every year this fair starts on the 7th of the Bengali month of Paush and lasts for three days. However, this year’s alternative Poush Mela was held for six days. According to data, Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, inaugurated the fair in 1895.  

Let’s take a look at the colours and images from the Fair.

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Meet CJP Grassroot Fellow Mohammed Ripon Sheikh

This young man, who has graduated with a B.Sc degree from Burdwan University, loves trivia. Sheikh’s passion to research and seek “unknown information about World History” has earned him many medals and trophies at various University and state-level Quiz championships, and youth festivals. Sheikh is a born orator and a natural community leader. He has the potential to represent his community, state and country at a global level one day. His immediate goal, however, is to find a job so he can support his parents.


Will the 125-year old Bolpur Poush Mela be held this year?

Fighting to keep the pottery industry alive


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