A fair means a periodical gathering in some open place. I had got the rare opportunity of visiting the Baliyatra Fair in Cuttack. The fair was held on the full moon day in the month of Kartika.
The fair is conducted every year on the bank of the Mahanadi. Thereby we commemorate our sea-trade with other countries in past. I had been to the fair with four of my friends. On our way to Cuttack, we discussed many things about our racial past.
The Sadhavas of the then Kalinga were known for their richness and caliber in trade. They set sails for Java, Sumatra, China, Ceylon (Srilanka), Borneo, Indonesia, Rangoon for trade. They exchanged their goods for jewels and gold. The sea-trade does not exist now. So we float toy-boats down the stream to remember our past-glory.
We reached the fair-in the evening. The place of fair was overcrowded with children, men and women. Men of different occupations had assembled there. Goods of various kinds had been brought to the Baliyatra for show and sale. People amused themselves in a great variety of ways.
Some people had come to dispose of their articles. Some had come to buy and some for sightseeing. Mostly the people were from the neighboring villages. The fair continued for about a week. The place was full of stalls made of straw and bamboo. The place was spacious and there was proper sanitary arrangement.
The stalls were full of fancy goods. They were giving a gorgeous look. Many people were coming to those stalls. They were in festive dress too. The dealers in shops dealt in various goods. It was a rare occasion for me to see those beautiful stalls. It relieved of my monotony.
The vendors sold toys and ballons for children. There were horse-wheels and merry-go-rounds for children too. The volunteers and scouts from the high schools of the town took prominent part in controlling the crowd. There was enough enthusiasm amongst the villagers in holding the fair. We had some snacks and tea in the fair.
In the fair there was display of skill in craftsmanship. We had an opportunity to visit a circus there that evening. We also purchased a few filigree works and horn works of Cuttack. Of course the prices of those articles were high. Still the people were purchasing those-things because they loved their rich tradition.
A note worthy feature of the fair was that children were arguing with their guarding ns to purchase balloons and dolls in the fair. They pulled the sarees of their mothers and emended the balloons and sweets. It was an opportunity for the businessmen to reap profits. However, in book-stalls, books were being sold on rebate. I purchased a few books on Oriya literature.
The police were alert in the fair to provide security to the visitors. There was fear of pick-pockets, theft and loss of goods, money and ornaments. Loudspeakers had been arranged at different places in the fair to warn the people of antisocial elements and black-marketers who sold stale sweets.
The Baliyatra is a grand fair in Orissa. The visit to this fair is still afresh in my mind.