A village fair is an annual gathering of the villages on some religious occasions like Rathajatra or Rasjatra. Somewhere it lasts for a day and somewhere it lasts for a number of days or even for a week. Preparations are made for days together before the fair begins. The stalls are put up, and men and goods start coming to the site. The place shakes off its solitary look for a time. And when at last the long-cherished day arrives, the whole village and the neighbouring ones wake up, as it were, with a new stir of life. Thus a village fair gives the villagers a good opportunity for both profit and amusement. It gives an impetus to the production of art and agriculture. It promotes the cause of cottage industry which was once the pride of Bengal. Moreover, it brings variety and enjoyment to the villagers in their simple and monotonous life.
I visited a fair at Beherampur on the occasion of Rasjatra. When I reached the fair, I saw a sea of human heads moving to and fro on the fairground. There were hundreds of stalls for selling various articles such as toys, dolls, balloons, ribbons, wooden utensils, earthen pots, household goods, bamboo-made baskets, etc. Stalls selling the same variety of goods were arranged in the same row. There were a large number of sweetmeat stalls and they tempted the buyers causing their mouths watering for rasagollas, jilabis, barfis, etc. The housewives crowded round the stalls of household articles like pots, pans, pitchers or various kitchen utensils. Handloom stalls were also heavily crowded. There was also a merry-go-round. It was a great thrill to whirl round and round till we got dizzy. A circus party and a magic show were two special attractions on the fair. They beat their drums every now and then to attract the spectators. The people who came to visit the fair were from all ranks of the society and they were all clad in gala dress and in a festive mood.
The village fair has also its drawbacks. Undesirable people flock to it and pickpockets find their easy opportunities. Many varieties of adulterated food are sold in the fair causing immense health hazards. Precaution is needed to ward off this danger to public health.
Yet a fair is useful in rural life for many reasons. It encourages art and craft of the village and fosters the spirit of cooperation and fellow-feeling. It is a meeting ground for the old and the young, the rich and the poor. It is also a part of our religious and cultural life. Once a year the fair breaks the monotony and adds joy to the dullness of village life. It creates a ripple of joy all around.